LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Two pieces of education legislation are on the table in Tallahassee. Under the Parent Empowerment Act, parents would have the power to fire school staff if they feel the school is not up to par. Under the Parental Involvement and Accountability in the Public Schools Bill, teachers would actually grade parents on their involvement in childrens' schooling.
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto believes the Parent Empowerment Act, known as House Bill 1191, would force schools to improve. "The full intent of the bill is to get parents engaged and involved in the turn around process," Benaquisto said.
HB 1191 would give parents power to create a reform plan if their child's school is failing; with enough signatures, fire teachers and administrators or turn the school over to a charter company; move their child out of a classroom if their teacher receives low ratings, and move them into a virtual classroom
Representative Kelli Stargel also filed Parental Involvement and Accountability in the Public Schools Bill, or HB 543, requiring elementary teachers to grade parents on things such as communication, absentee and tardy rates, submission of emergency contact information, and submission of medical records. They'd be marked "satisfactory," "needs improvement," or "unsatisfactory."
"They are not the parent police to take care of what parents are doing, and parents shouldn't be able to shut down a school either with 51% signing a petition," Island Coast Florida Education Association Executive Director Donna Mutzenard said.
Mutzenard believes No Child Left Behind already regulates schools' performances. And she worries grading parents will just give teachers more work, and cause more friction than progress.
"It's just micro-managing public education once again," Mutzenard said. "It's another layer of paperwork and accountability, but not an accountability that's going to help."
We asked parents what they think. "Both issues sound very good to me, very positive for both parents and teachers," parent and retired teacher Virginia McManus said.
"I think the teachers have to be graded, in some form or another, but it can't be solely up to the parents to decide, this one's a good teacher, this one's not," parent Dan Kavanagh said.
Both bills cleared their first committees this week. If passed, they would go into effect in July.