Yesterday morning I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend an invitation-only speaker series that brings together CEOs of companies across Tennessee to hear from a wide range of individuals. Many of these CEOs are actively partnering with community schools and charter schools to help them with their needs.
The speaker on this occasion was Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Kevin Huffman, so this event had great potential to get more CEOs and their companies involved in our schools. Mr. Huffman essentially talked about his history as our Education Commissioner and how it felt to be “a change agent.” He also talked about all the pushback he has received over his reforms. During the Q & A, a gentleman responded to the pushback commentary by asking Mr. Huffman if he felt like it was time for a listening tour. The Commissioner rattled off the various things he has done such as visiting districts and speaking to teachers and superintendents, but then stated that “there was no good way to get parent feedback."
As with many of the "problems" he pointed to during his talk, he didn’t offer up any suggestions on how to rectify the lack of parental input in his reform process, nor did he ask for ideas from the audience. He went on to give a very convoluted reason for not reaching out to parents which made my jaw drop in disbelief: He told the CEOs that “there are several faux parent groups that claim to represent parents but they don’t and they have ulterior motives and agenda.”
Um. WOW! My hand shot up in an attempt to get the opportunity to ask what “faux parent groups” he was referring to exactly. One could argue that StudentsFirst could be labeled in such a way, but somehow I don’t think he was disparaging his ex-wife’s astroturf education group which has lobbyists on the Hill advocating for Huffman's reforms. I got the distinct impression he was talking about TREE and all the other parent groups that have popped up across Tennessee because parents have had enough of his "do-what-I-say-or-else" reforms.
I was never able to ask him my question because I was not called on and had to dash out the door to, ironically, meet and speak with five parent groups from across the state about our disapproval of the Voucher and For-Profit Charter Companies bills. We also talked about our frustration over having our education bills buried by the Administration. The powers that be are trying to sweep parents under the rug and are clearly willing to say whatever it takes in an attempt to discredit us. We will not stand by and allow Kevin Huffman or anyone else to malign us or any of our fellow parent groups that are focused on education issues in Tennessee.
Feel free to join us in our #fauxparent campaign. Tweet and or post on Facebook a picture of yourself holding a sign that reads “I am NOT a #fauxparent!” and then add any hashtag that applies to your fight for public education. (We suggest using these these hashtags: #fauxparent, #tnedu, #tnleg. You should also include Kevin Huffman's twitter handle in the tweet: @TNeduCommish. Here is an example tweet: "I am not a #fauxparent. #tnedu #tnleg @TNeduCommish")
We want the Governor, his appointed “change agent”, the legislature, and everyone else in Tennessee to know that we are, in fact, very real, incredibly determined Tennesseans with valid concerns about the reforms that are being pushed in our state and we will not be silenced. We are the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and guardians of the almost 1,000,000 public education students in Tennessee and we have had enough.
Please join me in the effort make parents across TN aware that they are being marginalized by sharing this post on your personal Facebook pages and on Twitter. We must spread the word.
Yesterday, I attended an event where Commissioner Huffman spoke. I was amazed by the tone of his speech and by his version of what has transpired over the last few years. Many of the CEOs at the event chuckled along with him, apparently believing what he said.
He insisted that most teachers in the state are happy. He told the crowd that they could listen to anecdotal stories about teacher complaints or they could consider the "evidence," meaning the TELL survey (and a Vanderbilt survey with which I'm not familiar). When I raised questions about this and pointed out that the vast majority of the teachers in the state are being rated on classes they don't teach, he maintained that our new teacher evaluation model is the "best thing that has ever happened in TN."
He dismissed those who have questioned his decisions, saying there are many in TN who want to roll back our progress and higher NAEP scores.
And my personal favorite: When asked what parents think, he said it's difficult to know what parents believe because there are so many "faux parent groups" in the state.
Takeaway: If you don't agree with Commissioner Huffman, (1) you're part of a fake organization, (2) you hope that our schools will get progressively lower scores over time, or (3) you're a whiny teacher who is in the minority of teacher ranks.
Why is this guy still in power? Because he is completely insulated. This event was sponsored by a CEO group and attended by a friendly Chamber of Commerce crowd who apparently have no idea what's actually happening in public education.
The problem with many of the elites, who have been trying to run the show, is that they've never spent any real time in a public school, so they buy this nonsense.
Why would TN Commissioner Kevin Huffman say that about parent groups? Could it be:
- Because he thinks parents couldn't possibly be smart enough to research, understand, and see the gaping holes in manipulated data?
- Because he thinks we aren't smart enough to organize with other parents to form organizations to support our children's schools?
- Because he thinks people have time to create fake groups just because they don't like him?
- Because he thinks people without children are really being paid to contact our legislators, school board members, Superintendents, and the media?
- Is he scared of the power we hold???
We aren't backing down.
The more we learn, the more determined we get.
The more parents we talk to, the stronger our group becomes.
No amount of money motivates us.
Our "ulterior motives" & "agenda" = our CHILDREN
Parents who never thought they had a political bone in their body have become involved because their children are being harmed by excessive testing, Common Core, charter schools, and other reforms. Now more than ever, parents are motivated to research and learn, to watch committee meetings online, to attend their local school board meetings, to contact elected officials, to ask in-depth questions. Some are even running for elected office to make things better.
No, we won't reveal our names. That would jeopardize the voices we've promised to keep anonymous through our TN Parent blogs and emails. You can see the many groups we collaborate with and represent at our website: www.tnparents.org