State Senator Bob Huff: Education Wolf (Page 3:3)
testing and evaluations, we don’t use it for controlling [teachers] but for development. We trust the teachers. We haven’t had so many immigrants in Finland, but we are going to have more in the future—and we need more because we have an aging population. In some schools, in the areas around Helsinki, more than 30 percent of the pupils are immigrants. It seems that we have been doing good work, also with the immigrants, if we look at PISA results. Normally, if children come from a very different schooling system or society, they have one year in a smaller setting where they study Finnish and maybe some other subjects. We try to raise their level before they come to regular classrooms. We think also that learning one’s mother tongue is very important, and that’s why we try to teach the mother tongue for all immigrants as well. It’s very challenging. I think in Helsinki, they are teaching 44 different mother tongues. The government pays for two-hour lessons each week for these pupils. We think it is very important to know your own tongue—that you can write and read and think in it. Then it’s easier also to learn other languages like Finnish or English, or other subjects. An educational system has to serve the local community, and it’s very much tied to a country’s own history and society, so we can’t take one system from another country and put it somewhere else. Our students spend less time in class than students in other OECD countries. We don’t think it helps students learn if they spend seven hours per day at school because they also need time for hobbies, and of course they also have homework.
If we reread her statements carefully a few items stand out to us. First, Finland does not seek to control teachers, turn teachers into robots, nor force them to follow scripts. The attitudes and words of respect for the teaching profession matches the actions of officials in Finland. Secondly, Finland does not hide its immigrant population. Those that do not speak the language are acknowledged, educated in a systematic manner, and teachers are not blamed for the “failure” of these students on tests.
The elite in the United States have a knack for distorted statements. As Huff remarked to me “My comments on teacher assessments have always been related to multiple measures”, that is unless you watch and listen to his interview on the California Channel. This is a classic case of how the politically elite operate, see William Jefferson Blythe Clinton on Monica Lewinsky, Barack Obama on the implementation of Obamacare, and Lance Armstrong on steroids. Elites are experts at denying what they actually said and support, while attempting to make the rest of us think our ears, eyes, and brains don’t work.
State Senator Bob Huff attempted to subdue my concerns about his support and knowledge about education and learning. He was sure to let me know his own children went to public schools. Yes, true Mr. Politician. Your children grew up in Diamond Bar, California. A wealthy community east of Los Angeles, adjacent to other similar cities in northern Orange County. Diamond Bar ranks on the low end of crimes, including violent and property, according to the LA Times. Home ownership is at 82.7% and the medium income is $90,153, according to the U.S. Census. Yes, Mr. Huff your students did go to public schools in a great community.
If Huff does not believe community, crime, poverty, and other population characteristics has an affect on learning, school ratings, and/or teachers, then I am wondering why he chose to live in Diamond Bar. Why not Santa Ana, Fresno, El Cajon, or Monrovia?
There are many excellent charter schools--public schools given more autonomy within a district, throughout the country. There are also many mismanaged charter schools. Under state and federal regulation, charter schools “must have a fair and open admission process, conducting outreach and recruitment to all segments of the community they serve. They are public schools and therefore cannot ‘choose’ which students attend.” These institutions of learning are often herald as beacons of success and models for other schools to replicate. I am not diminishing the hard work, dedication, nor authenticity in all charter schools, yet we should not take Huff’s claim as true that “Even Charter schools that take all the students of a public school perform better than traditional public schools.”
Despite Huff’s intentionally or unintentionally misguided claim, not all charter schools accept all students. A Reuter’s investigation by education reporter Stephanie Simon found large numbers of charter schools across the country screen for certain students, this process includes 15-page typed research essays, detailed application forms (often only in American English), family interviews, assessment exams, and documentation of any disabilities and special needs.
Mr. Huff glowing pointed to Amino Locke in Los Angles, California as proof the special, secret magic contained within charter schools makes it possible for these schools to be more successful than their regular public school counterparts. Yet, Huff intentionally or unintentionally failed to note the Green Dot controversy and failures at Locke. I am not sure he knew Green Dot is actually Astro Turf Dot when he made an appearance at their National School Choice Week Whistle Stop Tour on January 25, 2013.
For background, Green Dot is an edu-corporation “committed to changing the landscape of public education in Los Angeles so that every child can be successful in college, leadership, and life.” Despite its nonprofit status, Green Dot’s founder Steve Barr was ordered to repay the school $50,000 for undocumented expenses. Previously Barr was a Democratic Party organizer, a senior staff member of the Gary Hart presidential campaign, writer for George Magazine, and founder of Rock the Vote.
Of additional troubles, Green Dot’s vice principal was forced to resign in 2012 due to discrepancies during state testing. The first four years of Green Dot’s operation included the resignation of over 30% of the teaching staff and a school reorganization. Also of concern, the administrators of Green Dot have not operated within the same budget as other schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. According to the New York Times, Green Dot has been able to operate only through tax financing of $30 million and another $14 million from philanthropies.
No, Mr. Huff charters and school choice do not fix the manufactured “education crisis”. In some
instances they provide safe havens, yet they do not erase the fact California has been, is, and will remain a magnet for immigrants. The children and teachers of California do not deserve an F, you sir need to change your perspective.
Our students being tested, many not knowing American English and newcomers to the state, do not do well. Do well meaning you misguidedly believe they should score high on the test. If they don’t, then somehow we must fire the teacher and give the child another Microsoft device to use in school, more Pearson learning materials, and more pre and post testing. 25% of students in California are English Language Learners. Nearly half of California students (49%) are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, compared with about 40% nationally. Students receiving Special Education services consistently make up almost 11% of the school population in California.
If you conclude there is an education crisis, that is a false conclusion. If you conclude from test results that the rigorous state standards and state test was not rigorous enough and we need to adopt an even more rigorous test, then you have come to an even larger false conclusion.
State Senator Huff also stated to me “Politicians don’t have tenure. Politicians are routinely ‘fired’ when they cease to be relevant to their voters. I defy teachers to live with our employment terms. Oh, and we get no public retirement benefit.” It seems appropriate to both laugh and cry at his claims. No, Mr. Huff politicians don’t have tenure. They have incumbency, at a rate of 95.17% for re-election. Individuals looking to become teachers are weeded out and weed themselves out before acceptance into teacher credentialing programs in college. Additional individuals are screened out in the application and interview process prior to being hired.
Yes, kindergarten through grade 12 teachers have tenure. A different form of tenure than university faculty. What does that mean? After a series of years and years of employment a teacher earns permanent job status in a district. A teaching position comes after signing a contract that then guarantees due process before termination. This includes such acts deeming the teacher incompetent, insubordinate, and immoral. According to Professor Perry Zirkel’s research for Washington Post, administrators in school districts often terminate teachers, prevailing 3-to-1 in outcomes. Mr. Huff, do we dare apply these criteria to politicians?
Beyond the apocalyptic, evil, life-threatening, spit in your eye concept of due process (in case little Johnny and little Johnny’s parents are actually not being honest about Mrs. Krabappel), what does tenure mean? Teachers sign contracts with public school districts with specific and ambiguous job descriptions, hours, duties, and responsibilities. For example, the bright-eyed, enthusiastic person out of college, likely with school debt, hungry, and looking to put a roof over their head goes on to successfully interview, accepts a teaching position, and then is handed a long document to sign.
The eager teacher is likely not to know nor care at the time about the 40 hours stated in the contract being a minimum set of hours. Add on the hours for lesson planning, grading, field trip planning, conferences, creating progress reports and report cards, school yard duty, staff meetings, staff development, workshops, fundraising, school dances, the 40 hours quickly adds up to 60 to 80 hours a week.
Furthermore, teachers are bound by contract to the school district. If a teacher desires or has to move to another district within our outside the state, that teacher begins their career anew. Teachers new to districts lose their seniority and begin again toward the bottom of the pay scale. No, Mr. Huff teachers do not have the luxury of carpetbagging nor gerrymandering.
Less we mention the pleasure of teaching a room full, and I mean full, of children from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Yes, teachers love working with children and younger people. Yet, Mr. Huff I dare you to spend a week doing so (skipping the luxuries of your job). What Huff fails to admit or realize is that teachers make it all look easy.
Mr. Huff, you and other state senators are paid $95,000 a year and are given $142 a day per diem. No, you do not get a pension. Yet, state senators do have incumbency, and benefits from lobbyists such as free tickets to concerts, shows, sporting events, and somehow find nice jobs after being in the legislature.
Teachers get summers off! Actually, teachers have two months of unpaid time of which they are expected to revise and improve lesson plans, attend workshops, attend meetings, and many teachers spend time boxing up, moving, and setting up in their new classrooms due to enrollment changes. Mr. Huff, I defy you to live live up to our employment terms.
At a time when the Republican Party is a super-minority within the state, operates as a regional entity, and offers no positive solutions, we would all think the smart thing to do is to appeal to teachers, find common ground, and listen to what those on the ground have to say. Rather than feigning any kind of understanding, any kind of humanity, any desire to learn and take under consideration other input, rather than being a person, Mr. Huff proves to be a wolf. He will huff, he will puff, he will blow your house down, despite it adding another dagger to his own political career, the health of his own party, and the success of our state and country.
State Senator Huff is not the first to be ardently incorrect about education, we have plenty of examples in all parties. We can point to President Obama’s Race to the Top, David Coleman’s Common Core, and many TV pundits that make false claims and exaggerations on TV, radio, and internet sites each day.
Is it any wonder politicians often do not understand education issues, as “44 percent of Senators and 36 percent of Representatives had at one time sent their children to private school” and “20 percent of Members had attended private school themselves.” Elites, such as State Senator Huff, “control resources: power, wealth, education, prestige, skills of leadership”, and so on. Their disproportionate political, corporate, military, media, and social power makes it a challenge to combat.
To illustrate, according to the LA Times “Huff’s wife, Mei Mei, has served as a paid consultant for billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr., owner of Majestic Realty, which won legislative approval in 2009 for a waiver of environmental laws for a football stadium Roski wants to build in the city of Industry.”
Mr. Huff’s own political house is not immune. His top donor, Eli Lily & Co., is a member of Change the Equation (CTEq), a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM learning in the United States. CTEq’s coalition of members strives to sustain a national movement to improve PreK-12 STEM learning by leveraging and expanding its work focusing on three goals: improving philanthropy, inspiring youth and advocating for change.”
Huff’s top donor Eli Lilly among other CTEq members signed an open letter in
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