Benacquisto’s bill to empower parents in education gains steam in Senate

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In a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 98 percent of teachers surveyed believe family involvement in their child’s education has a “strong” or “very strong” impact on student achievement. To help empower parents in that process, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, has brought forth legislation this year that will equip parents to make informed, impactful decisions regarding the quality of their child’s teachers and school. This week, Benacquisto’s Senate Bill 1718 passed unanimously from the Senate Education Pre-K – 12 Committee, and lawmakers and organizations continue to rally in support.

“Parents are the only ones in the education process whose decisions are motivated purely by love for their children,” said Benacquisto, a mother of three. “This bill will allow parents to make an impact on the success of their children’s education. It is not a school choice bill. It is not a charter school bill or a voucher bill. This is a parents’ rights bill.”

SB 1718 fosters a new way of thinking about public education by giving parents power over the educational destiny of their own kids. It protects students by guaranteeing that, at a minimum, every child will receive an effective teacher every other year. No child will be placed in classrooms with ineffective teachers two consecutive years in a row. It clarifies current law relating to parent access to their child’s teacher evaluation, which states that teacher’s evaluations are public records after one year.

In addition, SB 1718 informs parents of virtual education options when they are already being notified of issues related to their child’s teacher. It also gives parents a seat at the table when school districts are choosing “turnaround models” to implement at their child’s school. A majority of parents in a failing school can sign petitions to select one of four federally-required turnaround options for their child’s school – Benacquisto’s bill allows parents to have a say in the selection of one of these options, but only after a school board has had two full years to turn the school around.

“This bill does what we hear so often from educators asking for parents to get involved in their child’s school,” added Benacquisto. “I believe it is fundamental for parents to have a choice in their child’s education. No parent should be forced to accept a failing school for their child. This will give parents a way to actively improve the quality of education their child receives.”

SB 1718 is supported by organizations such as Parent Revolution, representing thousands of parents across the country; the Foundation for Florida’s Future; The Florida Chamber of Commerce; Associated Industries of Florida; Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options and Students First.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.