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Capitol Comment: Huff Outlines Two of his Bills Recently Voted Down in Committee

Huff's district includes Diamond Bar and Walnut.

The following Capitol Comment is provided by the office of Sen. Bob Huff. 

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) details the defeat of two bills in the Senate Education Committee in his Capitol Comment for the Week of January 13th, 2014. Both measures faced heavy opposition from school unions, including the California Teachers Association, and were defeated by Democrats who control the committee process. 

SB 559 would have helped school districts and teachers by revising state-mandated layoff notice procedures. Yet another measure would have allowed volunteers to help with campus projects like campus cleanup or sprinkler repair. Senator Huff says the defeat of both bills shows that unions still call the shots and control the public school process in California.

Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter @bobhuff99.

Tim McMullen January 20, 2014 at 11:31 AM
The article about Senator Huff's proposal states, "SB 559 would have helped school districts and teachers by revising state-mandated layoff notice procedures." This article and Senator Huff's partisan explanation are at best disingenuous. He is correct that our system for identifying and notifying teachers who may be let go is frustrating and unwieldy, but this is entirely because the legislative budget process and the system for school financing have been so broken for so long. Much of this has been due to the ability of the minority party to hold up the budget process with a small minority of votes. For years, budgets that were supposed to be in place in June were not decided until September or October and often even later. Nevertheless, a school district's fiscal year would start on July 1st, and school would start in late August or early September, meaning that often a quarter or more of the fiscal year would be over before the district even knew what the state's actual funding would be. To make matters much worse, for many years (decades), the state has not actually been paying districts what the state owes. Districts have been severely shortchanged as much as 28% of the funding owed yearly, with the state creating a bizarre system of paying back a tiny percentage of the accumulated debt (2% to 5% or less), thus requiring districts to survive on huge and ever-increasing deficits. As for "helping teachers," this proposal couldn't be further from the truth. Instead of being in distress from March through May (a system which is, admittedly, cruel for those who receive pink slips), at least the teacher knows by the time that school is out that they need to consider looking elsewhere for employment. Neither Senator Huff nor the article explain the actual proposed changes, so it sounds reasonable to wait for the May revise before notifying teachers so that all that "costly paperwork" could be avoided. However, by moving the notification dates by two and one-half months, teachers would now receive their termination notices on August 1st. In many districts these days, school is starting mid-August or earlier. By August 1st, districts would already have to have their hiring completed in order to start the school year. Therefore, teachers who are notified of their actual termination on August 1st would have almost no possibility of finding a teaching job for that year. Remember, unlike most jobs, teachers do not merely come and go throughout the year with new positions opening up year round. They have a contract for the entire school year, so a teacher who does not already have a job by the beginning of school has little or no real hope of securing one. We have just entered an era of budget reform for education in California, and we have yet to see how these new rules play out. To suggest a truly drastic change in the procedure for notifying and dismissing teachers is, at this time, completely inopportune and inappropriate. To then assert that this bad bill was defeated because Unions and teachers don't care about children and parents is the height of arrogance and misdirection. It was defeated because it is a bad idea for education in California. "The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!" Tim McMullen
Concerned Parent January 20, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Tim, I am trying to understand your very lengthy tirade and what you are trying to say, but just can't. You are too smart for me. Our school system in CA is going down. Our education is getting worse and worse. Unions are not protecting anyone. They are just used as lobbyist for special interest groups - money, money, money... Can you please explain in simpler words for us, simple people, what's wrong you see with Bob's proposals? I personally admire Bob for trying to fight for what is the best for our people and our children.
Tim McMullen January 20, 2014 at 04:09 PM
Dear Concerned Parent, Thanks for your interest. I hope that you will read on. I apologize for the density of my comment. One problem is that this site apparently removes paragraphs so that a seven paragraph analysis becomes one long "tirade." Education is NOT simple. Making it BETTER is NOT simple. Making it worse IS simple: attack teachers; attack unions; underfund the system; pass laws that are burdensome and ineffective; and pretend that it’s simple! I am not "too smart for you" whether you meant that as a compliment or a slam, but you have put your finger on a significant problem. People demand simple answers to very complex problems, and they don't have any interest in understanding the complexities; they just want a simple explanation, a catch phrase, that they can then repeat. You proclaim, "Our school system in CA is going down," "Our education is getting worse and worse," and "Unions are not protecting anyone. They are just used as lobbyist(s) for special interest groups - money, money, money." These three opinions become murky in some cases and downright wrong in others when confronted with the facts. But you want simple answers. So, here are simple answers. Nobody works harder for kids than teachers! Nobody cares about students actually learning and succeeding than teachers! Nobody wants kids to become well-rounded, happy, productive, successful people more than do teachers! I mean NOBODY. Parents might care about their OWN kids achieving these things (I wish that all of them did), but a good teacher wants this for all of his or her students year after year. And as for that, when it comes to "strong" vs. "weak" teachers, you will not find a group of workers with a higher percentage of strong to weak, caring to uncaring, dedicated to indifferent, than you will with teachers. Finally, the "Teachers' Unions" are TEACHERS! The attempt to cast them as bullies or thugs, as mere lobbyists fighting for "special interests" who thwart the good intentions of "hardworking" politicians is not only laughable and contrary to the facts but quite offensive. That was simple. No actual facts, just honest, sincere, emotional opinions based on over 60 years of observations and first hand experience. I wonder upon what you have based your opinions?
Tim McMullen January 20, 2014 at 04:11 PM
If you want to truly begin to understand why I quibble with Bob Huff's simplifications, read on. I would ask, though, did you actually read the legislation that he proposed? If not, then how can you assume that it was actually designed "to fight for what is best for our people and our children"? Furthermore, how could you hope to understand my criticism, if you don't actually know what he was proposing? Our "test scores" have been steadily rising. Here, of course, is a tricky fact. I agree with you that our education, in some ways, has been getting worse, but it is specifically BECAUSE of politicians who pander to the public but create huge educational and economic messes, often intentionally. George Bush's "No Child Left Behind" offered a great catch phrase but a terrible legacy of sacrificing a well-rounded, interesting, and challenging curriculum for massive testing programs that gave billions of dollars to private publishing and consulting firms nationwide rather than improving funding to schools and school districts. It was a punitive system whose overt sanctions laid the groundwork for privatizing public schools. Barack Obama's and Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" further hurt the system by applying more "free market" policies to an institution for which most "market" approaches should not and cannot apply. Governor Brown has very recently confronted this trend and is looking for better ways to improve schools and assess that improvement. It remains to be seen if these "new" approaches actually pan out. I retired from teaching after 40 years. I was a California Mentor Teacher (a program that allowed veteran teachers to help new teachers improve their teaching) for 16 years, from the program's inception to its demise. I was our school's first "Teacher of the Year." For over 30 years, I also served as a Union site representative and as a member of the Union's bargaining team. For the last few years, I have served as the chief negotiator for our district's teachers. When I retired, they asked me to stay on as their chief negotiator, a responsibility that I gladly accepted. I went to public school in California; I went to college in California, both a private and a public college; and I began teaching right out of college. In other words, I have had an intimate knowledge of California's educational system for over 60 years. Your attack on Teachers' Unions echoes Senator Huff's and other Republican's false claims, but in my significant experience, it is absolutely contrary to fact. Do you honestly think that politicians work harder for students and parents than teachers do? I am proud to say that you can probably not find any group of workers who are more dedicated to their job than teachers, who put in more hours outside of their "work day," who counsel and comfort and encourage and empower their "clients" (students and parents) as well as their colleagues.
Tim McMullen January 20, 2014 at 04:12 PM
Part 3- "Money, money, money"? That is a cruel joke for a California taxpayer to make. School district budgets in California have been cut repeatedly for at least the last five years and underfunded for decades. We have recently lost thousands of dedicated, hard working teachers (many who had been teaching ten years or more), not to mention thousands of support staff because California has not paid its full education bill for many years. If you want to investigate Republican led corporate tax breaks and subsidies as well as deregulation of industries and the financial sector as major causes of both the underfunding and the economic downturn, that evidence is easy to find. Those teachers who remained have agreed to significantly higher class sizes, taken significant pay cuts and/or benefit cuts, and have paid even more out of pocket to provide basic supplies for their students. In the meantime, their tax credit for those expenses has been eliminated. We have had no raise in over five years. Can the same be said for Senator Huff and our state and federal legislators? No. Nor can it be said for much of the private sector even in these difficult economic times. Yes, those "special interests" for whom teachers' unions fight are teachers, students, parents, and the community in which they teach! They fight to protect teachers from cronyism, nepotism, administrative error or abuse, discrimination and harassment, and, yes, they fight for fair pay and benefits for teachers. They fight to protect student rights and to make sure that students truly do get the best possible education. So, Concerned Parent, if you read down to here, you will realize that although I offered a resounding defense of teachers and their unions and a mild criticism of politicians in general, I did not address Senator Huff's two pieces of legislation. If you reread my first comment carefully, perhaps anticipating where the paragraphs might have gone, you will get the simple criticism of the Senator's first proposal and the article: it would NOT be better for teachers. Let the legislators and the Governor come up with real budgets and full funding year after year, and the notification process will be fine. The only reason that we initially send out too many notices is that the POLITICIANS have not done their job and districts are in economic limbo until too late in the cycle. If you, or anyone, wishes a further explanation of my criticism of these two proposals, I will be happy to provide them.
Concerned Parent January 20, 2014 at 06:55 PM
Dear Tim, thank you. Now I understand your points. My experience is coming not from a service provider (a teacher) but a consumer (a parent of a school child) point, plus family members in higher education, who observe a level of University education going down very fast. My Union experience comes from working for companies with and w/o unions. I have a lot of respect for the job Bob is doing trying to help our state to get back to "normal". Right now California is dying from business prospective and social prospective. Several of our hard working buddies and business owners have moved to "normal" states. We consider moving out as soon out child graduates, taking our pretty hefty taxes away with us.
Tim McMullen January 20, 2014 at 07:02 PM
Thanks for the response. I have a simple reply in the form of a song title from Bruce Cockburn that I used to also share and discuss with all my students: "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." I am guessing that your definition and my definition of "normal" would be worlds apart. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

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