News, Views & Capitol Updates on All Things Education
Edited by Senator Bob Huff
Member of the Senate Education Committee
Welcome to the Huff Chalkboard, a source for news, views and insider updates from Sacramento on California education issues. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I am pleased to keep you updated on some of the leading stories concerning California’s education system. I will also provide some of my own thoughts on topics and challenges facing education today. Please feel free to send me your feedback and any ideas you have to improve the Huff Chalkboard newsletter. Thank you for your readership.
- Senator Bob Huff
I am very excited to invite you to my annual Education Summit on April 26th. Every year, we have engaging leaders speak on the state of education. Last year, L.A. Unified School District’s Superintendent John Deasy joined us. This year the theme will be online education and its future in education. Please join me, teachers, parents, citizens and schools leaders for this community event. For more information on location, maps, time, etc. go here.
NBC Interview on Education Reform
I sat down with Conan Nolan of NBC to talk education reform. See NBC Interview here.
New bills on public education have been introduced in the California Legislature. Here’s a sample:
AB 2203 would make public school mandatory not just for 6 year old kids but also 5 year old kids. This could be the beginning of a slippery slope as pre-school becomes the business of the state as well.
AB 1521 eliminates certain tests the author sees as “non–essential“ such as 9th grade English. California does not perform nearly as well as we should on math, English and science tests but is the answer to that problem to get rid of the tests all together?
SB 1325 would require the State Superintendent and the State Board of Education to consider methods for enhancing pupil knowledge and pride in our history and form of government and for increasing civic participation.
Free Money for Schools
As part of a larger effort to creatively find new funding solutions for schools without reaching into taxpayer wallets, I have introduced legislation that will allow school districts to affix child appropriate advertisements to school buses. School districts already sell advertising space inside school buses, on campus buildings, lunch tables, hallways, in school–related publications (such as newspapers and yearbooks), and in sports facilities. SB 1295 will expand this by permitting school boards to sell child appropriate advertising space on the exterior of school buses.
A number of states (including New Jersey and Utah) have similar programs for their schools. The new revenue generated by these ad sales could be spent by the schools on any program lacking funding, such as the school buses, arts and music programs, sports, math and science labs, or for retaining teachers.
State Board of Education / Diastat
As the author of the new law to allow trained volunteers to aid students suffering from a seizure at school, I am pleased to report the State Board of Education officially began the implementation process for the program. Parents, teachers and other school employees can now breathe easy knowing that students with epilepsy will be safe from life threatening seizures while on school campuses.
Senate Education Committee hearings have started
The Senate Education Committee has commenced hearings and I encourage you to tune in to what is going on in education policy. You can catch hearings Wednesday mornings by going here.
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A Word On Education From Senator Huff
Preserving the Integrity of the Teaching Profession
I come from a family of teachers and understand better than most how valuable educators really are. But like any profession, there are always going to be a few bad apples.
When it comes to those bad apples in the education system, it can take seven years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to dismiss a teacher who has abused children. Many of us have heard of the unspeakable incidents carried out for years by one teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District – and this is not an isolated incident and LAUSD is not the only district to face this problem.
Over the years, the state has established a system that protects even the most gruesome individuals. The process is so wrecked and drawn–out, the LA Times has reported that LAUSD spent $10 million in a year paying a handful of teachers who are not fit to be in the classroom. That’s money that should be spent on students.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles Mayor and former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Antonio Villaraigosa wrote a letter to the governor urging him to “revise portions of the teacher dismissal laws that make it difficult to dismiss teachers who violate the public trust of our families and students. “ Former Chief of Staff to President Obama, and now Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel also supported similar legislation in Illinois which is now law. And now, the Los Angeles Unified School District has passed a resolution calling on the state for these same reforms.
This kind of reform is long overdue. My Republican colleagues and I are standing with Democratic leaders like Mayor Villairgosa in calling on the governor to push for change. We cannot sit back and do nothing, knowing that we can prevent more children from being harmed.
Parents are fed up too. After two years of attempting to remove an abusive teacher in Oakland with no success, 80 percent of the school’s parents removed their children for a day, costing the school district $9,000 in state funding. The parents were right to be angry, but the school district’s hands were tied and as they said in response to the boycott, they were “following personnel protocols.“ Parents say the teacher had repeatedly abused children verbally, and physically “manhandled“ kids – even locked a girl in the classroom.
These efforts aren’t about attacking teachers.This is about preserving the integrity of one of the finest and important professions in the country. By ensuring the handful of incompetent and dangerous individuals are not allowed near classrooms, we are not only saying that we hold a high standard for this invaluable profession but are also avoiding harm to its reputation.
Two years ago, I authored the exact reform Mayor Villaraigosa and LAUSD would like the state to pass. After that legislation earned approval from civil rights groups, schools, parents and the Senate Education Committee, the bill was pulled due to union pressure and forbidden from having any further votes. In other words, when it came to this reform, there was no democracy, it was a kangaroo court – something I’ve never witnessed during my tenure in the Legislature.
While this isn’t the first time this issue has been brought to the State Capitol, it may now have more of a chance with advocates like the LA Mayor. So far, no one on the other side of the aisle in the Legislature has called me pledging their support. There is still time to fix this mess, but every day we wait to make any changes, is another day children are at risk and teachers are lumped in with people who do not represent their profession.
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State report recommends changes in teacher layoffs
California’s process for teacher layoffs needs to be revamped because it's too costly and school districts are sending more pink slips than necessary, according to a report released Thursday by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Editor’s Note: The LAO now says the layoff notice process costs $700 per teacher. Last month I wrote about why this doesn’t need to happen. Read it here.
Adelanto parents resubmit petition for charter school
Parents aiming to improve their struggling Mojave Desert school have resubmitted a petition asking district officials to transform it into a charter campus, supporters said Wednesday.
Diamond Bar, Hacienda, Rowland and Walnut schools win at Science Olympiad
Science Olympiad teams from Diamond Bar, Rowland and Walnut Highs qualified for the state championships during the regional tournament on Feb. 25. The teams competed against 46 teams at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Failure of school districts to turn over misconduct records angers local parents
The failure of nearly 30 local school districts to release teacher misconduct records has parents and residents expressing concerns about child safety and government transparency.
Committee nixes Brown’s pitch to ax transitional kindergarten
Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial proposal to ax the “transitional kindergarten” program set to launch in the fall hit a major roadblock…
Report: US makes modest gains in graduation rate
The last straw for 17–year–old Alton Burke was a note left on his door. The high school dropout picked up the phone and re–enrolled at South Hagerstown High.
Bills push tougher rules for teachers
State lawmakers are pushing two bills calling for school district transparency and punishment for misbehaving teachers.
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Parents use law to win school changes
California’s Parent Empowerment Act of 2009 was supposed to give parents tools to require school boards to restructure underperforming schools. Due to district and teachers’ union pushback, however, it hasn't exactly worked out that way. The first test case, where parents asked the district to restart their school as a charter school, remains mired in court.
Support reform; don't go backward — School board in Adelanto needs to aid parents for the good of all
Desert Trails Elementary School is about 100 miles away from heart of the uber–urban schools of Greater Los Angeles — and a million miles away in spirit. This small Mojave Desert city of Adelanto may well be flashpoint of parent–empowered education reform in California.
Obama’s Education Record
We are now entering the fourth and final year of the first term of the Obama administration. Enough time has elapsed to provide an opportunity for at least an interim assessment, even though anything more definitive must await the voters’ judgment as to whether a second term is warranted.
School districts stonewall citizens
Why can’t our school districts that are stonewalling the local newspaper rather than complying with the open–records laws understand how terrible a light this shines on them? Why do they think that taking their sweet time divulging information crucial to the citizens for whom they work is more important than protecting problem teachers?
Council on Foreign Relations Endorses School Choice
The Council on Foreign Relations is the clubhouse of America’s establishment, a land of pinstripe suits and typically polite, status–quo thinking. Yet today CFR will publish a report that examines the national–security impact of America’s broken education system–and prescribes school choice as a primary antidote. Do you believe in miracles?...
Education–or, as economists refer to it, “investment in human capital”–is a cornerstone of every model of economic growth: if our children are not well educated, innovation and productivity will wither away. In other words, our long–term collective quality of life depends on the quality of our schools. And, by most measures, they are inadequate to the task. What are we doing wrong?
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