Sunday, May 5, 2013

New Rhee Scandal?: Forged Use of Names in Florida Parent Trigger Petitions, By 29 Accounts

UPDATE: With bi-partisan opposition, the parent trigger bill failed in the Florida Senate in a 20-20 tie vote, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported April 30, 2013.
Thanks to madfloridian at for this story.
The players, Michelle Rhee, Democrat, StudentsFirst CEO; Kelli Stargel, Republican, Florida State Senate; Carlos Trujillo, Republican, Florida House of Representatives.
Morning update on Michelle Rhee's very iffy Parent Trigger petition in Florida.
Florida Republican legislator Kelli Stargel had a lot of trust in Michelle Rhee and her Students First group when she announced their petition in committee debate. She said she had 1200 signatures in support of a Parent Trigger law in Florida.

Serious Problems Remain for Stargel, Trujillo and Rhee on Parent Trigger Petition
As Kelli Stargel takes to the Senate floor today to defend her Parent Trigger bill, she will be wondering whether or not it was a good idea to get involved with Michelle Rhee.

There were likely to be enough votes and political muscle behind it without having to resort to submitting a fraudulent petition into the debate. But Stargel and House sponsor Carlos Trujillo were getting beat up badly in committee debate and had to counter the overwhelming numbers on unpaid state opponents who appeared at hearings to testify. Top dollar lobbyists weren’t going to be enough..

The House went first, and Trujillo began mentioning that he had 800 signatures of support in his pocket and then Stargel said she had 1200. Some quiet inquiries prompted some foot-dragging by legislative staffs until Stargel’s list, which Michelle Rhee provided was released last week. Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory received the petition late in the week and discovered that a person she knew was on it. McGrory contacted that person who denied signing. After finding another denial, the Miami Herald contacted every person on the list and released the following yesterday afternoon:

On Sunday, The Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures..But 29 people said they had not signed the petition.
Here is the background in which Florida Blogger Bob Sikes enlarged on the Miami Herald's piece by McGrory. This is really so outrageous that Rhee continues to get away with actions such as this.

Rhee submits Parent Trigger petition with names who did not sign it?

He updated yesterday with responses from those who did not sign it.
UPDATE (1020AM CDT) From yesterday’s post: Bill Williamson of Palm Bay, Florida denies signing Rhee’s petition saying, ”to the best of my recollection, I do not recall signing a petition seeking support for the so-called Parent Trigger legislation. I do not support any legislation that would enable charter schools to shoulder their way into our public school systems without open discussion and local or statewide referendums.”

..."UPDATE (1034AM CDT) Chip Righter of Delray Beach didn’t sign either and emails “being a single man my entire life, and never married, I would have little interest in a petition seeking any parental position. If someone has rigged this petition, then they must be fired and banned for life to hold any future legislative positions. In the past I have had to pass drug and polygraph tests to get hired for employment. Why should we not demand all politicians to pass annual polygraph examinations to make sure the decisions they are making are in the best interest for American and stop what we all know is their individual financial gain. If politicians were doing nothing wrong why would refuse? American’s think the very lowest of politicians and they have earned their star.
Will Michelle Rhee get away with such antics this time? Or will someone call her on it?

The Parent Trigger law will probably pass in Florida today. But as Bob Sikes points out in his blog: "* What did Stargel know and when did she know it? Her evasions will have a short life expectancy that may get her through a vote today, but won’t last much longer. Not with a petition list that went public the minute she touted it. Trigger’s passage will only bring more heat as it will be tainted with evidence that fraud was committed."
See also this story of a video purporting to be from South Florida, actually being from a California-based advocacy group, from the Miami Herald, April 26, 2013: "Parent trigger bill spawns mystery video from supposed supporters."
Doubt has also been cast on a petition allegedly signed by more than 1,200 supporters of the parent trigger proposal. Three people whose names appear on the petition told The Herald/Times they never signed it.
“It’s sad that they are resorting to these tactics,” said Rita Solnet, a Palm Beach County mother whose non-profit organization Parents Across America opposes the parent trigger bill. “But it puts it all in perspective. It’s people from outside Florida and outside our schools who support this bill. It’s not the real parents.”
The parent trigger bill hits the Senate floor on Monday. It has already passed in the House.
The controversial proposal would enable a majority of parents to demand sweeping changes at failing public schools, including having a charter school management company step in. It would also require principals to notify parents when their kids are assigned to “ineffective” or out-of-field teachers for two consecutive years, and provide information about virtual-education alternatives.