The Tennessee Education Association sent out this bulletin today. State Commissioner Kevin Huffman, whose only classroom experience was two years in Teach for America, has plans to adopt every evidence-free, demoralizing tactic in the corporate reform playbook.

Huffman is a purveyor of zombie policies. Nothing he advocates has any evidence behind it. “Pay for performance” has been tried repeatedly for a century and never succeeded. So he wants more of it. It failed in 2010 in Nashville, where teachers were offered a bonus of $15,000 for higher scores. But Huffman either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. It’s not his money he’s wasting.

He knows that the state’s teacher evaluation system is badly flawed, but he wants to push ahead with it anyway. Apparently, he wants to break the spirit of the state’s teachers.

How to explain people who are so indifferent to the morale of teachers? How is this mean-spirited approach supposed to improve education?

Educators are supposed to nurture children and help them grow and develop. To be effective, they must be not only competent, but kind and patient. Treating educators harshly creates a sour and mean culture. Huffman sets a bad example. If teachers treated students the way he treats teachers, they would be fired. Deservedly.

The TEA bulletin says:

“House Finance and Budget Hearing

“In a budget hearing today regarding the 1.5 percent raise for teachers that Gov. Haslam included in his budget, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman was quoted as saying, “Our intent is that the 1.5 percent raise will not go to all teachers.” Instead, Huffman plans to have local districts develop their own pay-for-performance plans for distributing the funds. He also indicated he expects locals to base their plans on the evaluation system.

“In addition to the distribution of the 1.5 percent raise, Huffman also discussed plans to recommend major changes to the minimum salary schedule, which is maintained by the State Board of Education. TEA was able to stop Gov. Haslam’s attempt last year to pass legislation that would blow up the teacher salary schedule. This year, it appears Commissioner Huffman believes he can do administratively what Haslam was unable to do legislatively.

“Commissioner Huffman recognizes the evaluation system has fundamental flaws, yet he wants to move forward with tying teachers’ financial stability to this unfair system,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher. “We already have more questions than answers about the fairness of the evaluation system, and to tie teachers’ salaries to it would be reckless and irresponsible.”

TEA is working every day in the General Assembly to prevent these things from happening. We want to ensure teachers maintain a fair and objective salary schedule.

During the hearing, Huffman was also asked about the statewide charter authorizer and vouchers. He admitted a lack of knowledge about vouchers’ constitutionality after a legislator, Gary Odom of Nashville, read him a passage from the state constitution requiring the General Assembly to “provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.”