As you may or may not know, Kevin Huffman and John White are in a race to see who can reach Chiefs for Change Emeritus status first. After reading a series of posts by the respected Crazy Crawfish (http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-news-just-keeps-getting-worse-for-supt-of-ed-john-white-state-auditor-investigating-possible-payroll-fraud/) I thought John White had the clear advantage. I should not have underestimated the esteemed Kevin Huffman. He’s not going down with out a fight.
Its been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve covered the delayed test scores and the “post-equating”. About 2 week’s ago 15 State representatives sent a letter to Governor Haslam questioning the legality of the commissioners granting of waivers. After all a clause in the recently passed legislation clearly seemed to say he didn’t have that authority. Governor Haslam shrugged and said he hated cheap parlor tricks and that he hadn’t had time to even think about changes to his cabinet due to the upcoming election.
In case it wasn’t clear initially how unconcerned the governor was about the opposition to Mr. Huffman he repeated it to every reporter and TV station that would listen. He reiterated it at every personal appearance he made that week and he bemoaned the fact that these state representatives wrote a letter instead of coming to talk to him. Apparently it slipped his mind how much strong arming he did this past session and that people usually don’t like chatting with people who brow beat them, but it allowed him to play the wounded statesman to the hilt.
It was requested that the State Attorney General take a look at whether the waiver was legal or not. Think back if you will to the release of the quick scores, you’ll remember that they were released at 3 pm on the Friday before Memorial Day. Public Relations agencies like to release bad news late on a Friday or better yet, late on the day before a long weekend. The hope is that not a lot of people will see it or if they do they’ll forget it by Monday. Guess when the AG released the ruling on the legality of Commissioner Huffman’s waivers? The afternoon of July 3rd.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m proven right in a argument against people who have been very critical of me I don’t tell only a few people at 9 o’clock at night. I do it first thing in the morning and I tell everybody who will listen. Apparently the State Attorney General was so sure of his opinion that he slipped it out right before a three day weekend. “Mr. Huffman was perfectly legal in his actions and now I’ve got a BBQ to get to. Talk to you on Monday.” It makes absolutely no sense to not wait until Monday to share the opinion if its a solid opinion. Why not offer that voice of support when the most people will hear it and discuss it?
Lets make no mistake either, the man needs the support. There are numerous petitions out circulating with calls for his resignation. These petitions have garnered thousands of signatures, not that the governor is paying attention. There is a daily call for action from every corner of the education field in Tennessee, even though Mr.. Huffman is also taking things in stride, “Anytime you get critics like that, you have to take it seriously. My focus is on doing my job, and my focus is on trying to get ready for next school year. And I think things that are distractions from getting ready for next school year don’t really help anybody,” Luckily he has friends that won’t sit by idly.
A petition has been created to show support for the Commissioner. In just a couple days it has garnered 336 signature. Almost reaching its stated goal of 500. Though, as the well established blogger Sean Braisted points out, “the petition suffers from low expectations. How can they achieve more if they only expect 500 signatures?” I’ve got to agree. Why not a goal of 5000. After all you’ve got all the folks at TFA, the Charter Incubator, SCORE, TEAM who’ve either directly or indirectly financially benefited from Mr. Huffman. They could at least do him a solid.
Lets take a look at that petition, pull some names, put them into google and see what comes up. There’s Justin Testerman, according to Goggle he’s Chief Operating Officer at Tennessee Charter School Center. How about Ben Schumacher? According to Linked In, Senior Managing Director of Strategy and Leadership Development at Teach for America. Derik Ohanian? He’s a Leadership Coaching Consultant for…Tennessee Department of Education. Meghan Koo? She’s a talent recruiter for Teach for America in Arizona. Derwin Sisnett? He’s the CEO for Gestalt Community Schools. I could go on all day and the results would be the same. A veritable who’s who of the privatization movement.
This would be comical if it wasn’t so damn serious. As I’ve mentioned before, my wife is a teacher. TVASS scores came out while we were on vacation. What happened in our house is similar to what happened in households all across the state of Tennessee. Phones rang and text notifications went off. Damn good teachers who had previously been fours and fives were now finding out that they were threes and two’s. Some even found out that they were ones. These were good dedicated teachers that were being told that they weren’t doing their job based on some opaque junk science model pushed by the Tennessee Department of Education.
I expressed how much I despised the system to my wife and she bit my head off. “That’s fine, but this isn’t some mental exercise. This is mine and my friends lives. It’s the system we have and we have to live with the consequences. We don’t have the luxury of debating its merits or drawbacks. Right now the consequences aren’t good.” Talk about the cold slap back of reality. She’s right though and that’s what takes the humor out of this whole situation.
We all want what’s best for the children. We all want to prepare them the best we can for the future. We need to remember though, that all across Tennessee and the United States, there are people who have dedicated their lives to this task. They have made sacrifices to further their education to prepare for this calling. They’ve sacrificed time and luxuries for their families in order to meet the challenges. They can’t just walk away from things for awhile because they’re tired of all the rhetoric. They’ve got to show back up everyday with a cheerful face and put aside fears for the future and wounds from the present to make sure their charges receive the best they have to give.
They give like this over and over everyday while you and I debate tenure laws. They face children who suffer in crippling poverty while the debate of poverty as an excuse rages on twitter. They try to educate children who barely speak English and some who are actual refugees while critics push an ulterior agenda against the role of the union. It’s insane and its got to stop. We need to stop saying how important teachers are while we take a match to our best ones.
Mr. Huffman likes to say change ruffles feathers or to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs. Well our teachers are not birds or eggs. They are very real people. People who deserve the right to decent lives while sharing the gifts they’ve been blessed with. Don’t kid yourself. Teaching is a talent like athletics’, music, art or any other talent. Would you sing for an audience that continued to talk while you performed? I didn’t think so.
This is why the sooner people like John White and Kevin Huffman gain emeritus status the better. Their arrogance leads them to trample over the true dedicated professional. The one that is willing to work in the system with democratic controls to make it better. Instead of the ones whose hubris allows them to ignore elected officials and the will of the public to create their own system to serve those of their choosing instead of all. The ones that have so little respect for the general population that they think they can create petitions with their fellow carny’s and no one will notice. Well we’ve noticed and we want it to stop.
It may initially appear that Kevin Huffman is in a strong position. Don’t believe it for one minute. If the Governor was truly not concerned, he would not feel compelled to offer an opinion. If petitions truly were not having an effect, supporters wouldn’t feel compelled to create their own. These actions speak of things getting a little desperate. We just need to keep up the pressure. Let’s make sure Mr. Huffman wins the race against Mr. White.