Teach for America executive Kevin Huffman was named Gov. Bill Haslam’s education commissioner Thursday and declined at his introductory news conference to give his opinion about the most controversial issue facing teachers in the legislature.
Asked for his view on the Republican bill to strip public school teachers of collective bargaining rights, Huffman declined to answer.
“My focus right now is the governor’s legislative package. We’re focused on issues that are going to bring quality to the schools right now. I’m excited about the focus on tenure reform. I’m excited about the opportunity to bring in high-performing charter schools. I’m excited about the chance to improve the level of performance of administrators, teachers and students across the state, and that’s what my focus is.”
As he has done for the past two weeks, since the issue pushed the front of the legislature’s education agenda, the governor also pointedly refused to give his opinion.
“There are still some twists and turns in terms of how all that develops,” Haslam said of the collective bargaining bill. “We’re in the middle of those discussions. At the appropriate time, I think we’ll weigh in. We’re not going to throw 100 things against the wall and see what sticks. We’re going to pick a few things that we think are really important.”
Huffman, 40, has been Teach for America’s executive vice president for public affairs. Founded in 1990, Teach for America is an education reform organization that recruits top college graduates and young professionals and puts them to work in high-need classrooms across the country. In the past year, the organization placed more than 8,200 teachers in 250 school districts in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
Huffman also had been Teach for America’s vice president for Growth Strategy and Development, helping increase its operating revenue base from $11 million in 2000 to $14 million in 2008, according to the Haslam administration.
A lawyer, he is the first Teach for America alumnus to be named a chief state school officer.