Powerful Union Opposition Sinks Huff Education Measure

Posted: June 13, 2012 in Education
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News Release from Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff:

Democrats Reverse Position on Low Performing Schools to Quash School Choice

Legislative Democrats who control the Assembly Education Committee rejected common sense legislation today authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). SB 172 sought to make a minor change to the Open Enrollment Act by changing the name of “low-achieving” schools to a less judgmental and more benign title of “enrollment opportunity” schools.
Representatives from the California Federation of Teachers, Association of California School Administrators not only testified against the Huff measure, but also expressed their displeasure with the intent of the Open Enrollment Act. The Senate Republican Leader expressed his disappointment that committee members failed to act on a chief and shared concern by many school districts, which have been publicly labeled as “low-achieving,” despite some relatively higher test scores.
“My legislation is not without precedent,” said Senator Huff during today’s hearing. “In 2003 the Assembly Education Committee approved, and the Governor signed, an identical bill to SB 172 which replaced the name of a ‘low performing school’ with the less judgmental term of ‘high priority school.’ The Legislature has a history of changing this kind of terminology.”
California’s Open Enrollment Act requires the Department of Education to create a list of 1,000 schools which are required to offer parents the option to transfer their child to any other higher performing school of their choice. Schools on the list of 1,000 are currently deemed “low-achieving” according to a specific formula prescribed by law. The current designation creates a problem which SB 172sought to address.

Senator Huff expressed his disappointment over the defeat of his measure, which had earlier passed out of the Senate with full bipartisan support.

“Open Enrollment was never meant to be punitive or to have a stigma,” said Senator Huff. “School choice for parents and children, not subjective labels, is the underlying purpose of the Open Enrollment Act. Nobody likes to be labeled substandard.”

Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

RADIO STATIONS: Three sound bites in .mp3 format featuring Senator Huff during today’s committee hearing can be accessed at:


  1. School choice doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked since NCLB when schools were set up to fail by making it an impossible goal that 100% of students had to be proficient in math and reading (on standardized tests) by 2014. Education is not about standardized tests Just look at what it did in San Diego back in the early 2000’s and NYC as recently as a few years ago. Reforming America’s schools needs to be a debate about curriculum and pedagogy, not just constantly closing schools based on standardized testing. Its not about Republican or Democrat. Its about lawmakers repeatedly supporting policies that have never worked and are never going to work.

    • Alex Thorne says:

      “Its about lawmakers repeatedly supporting policies that have never worked and are never going to work.”

      I completely agree, but what’s the answer? Unfortunately, the debate IS mostly between Republicans and Democrats. My other question is: who’s been dictating pubic school policies for decades?

      • Well for the last decades it has been both. Race to the top is very similar to NCLB, and both are based on the same principles of testing and school choice. That’s why politicians need to enable educators more by letting educators do their job. Politicians have repeatedly shown that they know very little about how to fix education. It starts in the classroom and grooming great teachers, pedagogy, and curriculum shifts, not with whether its public or private or charter or whatever top down approach powerful and rich people think they can devise to try to fix education.

      • Alex Thorne says:

        “That’s why politicians need to enable educators more by letting educators do their job.” What is the largest group standing in the way of “enabling educators” and implementing sensible reforms? And which “rich people” are responsible for the many failing public school?

      • When I say “rich” people for example philanthropic foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He had no experience or expertise in public education but people saw him as a cultural icon because of his wealth. He said that the biggest problem was teacher evaluation, and gave 300 million to charter schools in Tampa, Pittsburgh Memphis, and Los Angeles to work on an approach so that teachers would be hired and fired based on test scores. He gave millions to teacher’s unions to make them committed to just test-based evaluation. His funding focused on ideas that were based on how to run a corporation, a market-based approach to education, consumer choice, data-driven decision making, and pay for performance. These things have never worked and they continue not to work. Wall street entrepeneurs are also big fish in school reform. In 2010 Andrew Cuomo needed money for his campaign and needed the support of Democrats for education reform which is a voice of hedge-fund managers. They contribute money to politicians and legislators persuading them to implement this free-market based approach to education. This funding caused the NY legislature to more than double the number of charter schools in 2010. They may have been Democrats but charter schools have long been a Republican ideal. This is why politics doesn’t matter here. Its both sides. Across the country, the districts that have applied these methods have shown no real educational improvement. Besides the Bill Gates foundation there are a bunch of others all with this same approach.

      • Alex Thorne says:

        I can see you’re very passionate about this issue. But, don’t you have any criticism for the folks who drove public education into the ditch in the first place. Public education was going downhill in the is country long before the “rich people” got involved.

      • Specifically, who are you referring to? I do know that there really has never been a golden age of American public schooling, but lately this corporate reform movement has been to blame and its been the overarching mindset for the last 12-15 years or so.

      • I would probably have more criticism, but I know more about the last ten years than before that. Also I was responding more to the article. Can only argue so far as my knowledge takes me. What’s your criticism? I’m interested.

      • Alex Thorne says:

        Don’t you think that teacher’s unions have been standing in the way of reform? They are a powerful force that most politicians (mostly Democrats) don’t want to cross. As far as choice, I understand the challenges that poses to struggling schools, however, as a father of two girls in 1st and 2nd grade, if they were stuck in a failing school, I think I would want the choice to move to them to a school that gave them the best education possible. (Waiting for a failing school to turn around isn’t an option.) I don’t know if you have kids, but as a parent, there’s nothing more important than giving them the best education possible in a safe and nurturing environment.

      • Actually I would argue that unions do not stand firmly in the way of reform as many believe them to. There is not comparably better academic performance states such as Texas and Virginia which do not allow teachers to negotiate binding contracts. Charter schools, which are mainly non-union do not consistently perform better than the public schools they replaced. Also, Finland, with arguably the best educational system in the entire world, has its teachers 100% unionized. Teachers in Finland are greatly compensated, greatly respected, and rigorously educated for their profession. That is not true of the U.S. There is 50% attrition rate among teachers within their first five years of entering the profession. Often they are fired for no good reason within those first few years. They need protections and due process rights. Bad teachers sometimes get those due process rights but that is the fault of the bad administrators. Their performance needs to be evaluated to make sure. I do not have kids. I am actually just a senior in college who wants to teach and start or join an educational reform movement in this country, but I can see your concern as a parent. The problem is so many schools have been closed and private and charter schools opened and it hasn’t produced any results for so long already. There are individual around the country charter schools that do well, yes. But that is more a result of their individual approach to teaching than the mere fact that they are charter schools. I don’t know why we haven’t realized that and studied them more in depth.

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