As Michelle Rhee Links Arms With The Right, Allies Worry

For those who viewed Michelle Rhee as an anti-union bully, the past few months have offered lots of chances to say “toldya so.” Soon after resigning as the D.C. Public Schools chancellor in October, Rhee began appearing with Republican governors who were busily making war on public-sector unions. But if longtime Rhee critics felt vindicated, another group has been less sanguine: left-leaning education reformers who worry that her moves could help tie education reform to a larger conservative agenda to crush organized labor.

Since the launch of Rhee’s advocacy organization, StudentsFirst, the optics certainly haven’t been favorable for her fellow Democratic reformers. In October, pugilistic New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked her to become his education commissioner. Rhee turned him down, but called herself a “big fan” of his plans to weaken the state’s teachers’ unions. Months later, Rhee became an adviser to Rick Scott, the Tea Party favorite who, as Florida’s governor, has fought to erect new barriers to collecting union dues. And when an even higher-profile clash over public-sector unions began this year in Wisconsin, Rhee was lauding its right-wing governor, Scott Walker, for taking an “important” step to rein in teacher pensions and “limit what they bargain.”

Rhee, of course, hasn’t gone so far as to propose ending collective bargaining. She’s repeated her long-held stance that teachers’ unions can play a constructive role in the public sector and in education reform. Though she’s been more vocal about supporting vouchers—Scott has actually proposed voucherizing the entire Florida school system—her basic policy positions don’t appear to have changed much, either: Even when she was a Democratic appointee in the District, she battled seniority-based teacher retention and touted teacher accountability, merit pay, and the like.

But following the jolt of her departure from DCPS, Rhee’s style as a confrontational advocate has seemed to blur the distinction between her views and the hard-line Republicans she’s worked with. The effect is to reinforce an array of right-wing positions that her left-leaning allies say they don’t endorse. “It’s counterintuitive, but if I were Michelle, I would say ‘I’m the poster child for collective bargaining,’” says Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. In Williams’ world, tough negotiations with unions are a sign of respect for their existence. It’s something else entirely to wish unions away. “You’re always in danger of getting caught up in their style and politics, working with people who aren’t as careful,” he says. “You have that risk.”

That risk—of giving the appearance “that this all is just a stalking horse of union-busting,” in the words of Kevin Carey, policy director for the think-tank Education Sector—is something that Democratic education-reform types have long sought to mitigate. Ever since Democratic voters bounced her boss, Adrian Fenty, from office, though, Rhee has neither gone through the motions to allay such concerns—nor had liberal political allies to do it for her. “She is swimming in some politically choppy waters,” Carey says.

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In fact, the same criticisms of Rhee’s polarizing public persona now come from erstwhile allies, not reform foes. “It’s very high risk—people have spent years trying to be clear that we’re sending an anti-teacher message, that’s something we’ve been very careful about,” says Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “If you instead rattle the cage so much, people begin to fear that you have been full of it, and that you haven’t been honest, you lose them.”

“She may have to work harder to convince people that she’s not part of some Republican plot,” Williams adds.

There are at least some indications that Rhee may be taking tentative steps to reestablish her bipartisan street cred—a sensible thing to do, given that she’s announced plans to raise $1 billion for StudentsFirst, a sum that probably requires dunning liberals and centrists along with right-wingers. Last month, she announced that George Parker—the D.C. teachers’ union leader she negotiated with as chancellor—would become a senior fellow at the organization. “I hope, working together again, we can come up with ideas for improving how schools serve children nationally,” Rhee wrote in a Huffington Post piece. But can such alliances last? Rhee’s friends and foes are waiting, watching—and worrying.

Back to main story: Diane Ravitch, the Anti-Rhee

Our Readers Say

This article hits the nail on the head with regards to some of my concerns. I actually was a Rhee fan, and heard her speak in Lansing a few weeks back. But there are many out there who are using education reform as a trojan horse for a broader ideological agenda that includes converting publics to charters, doing away with pensions, and undermining or eliminating collective bargaining. (Charters, by design, aren't intended to be turnarounds, and certainly weren't conceived as a menas to run schools on the cheap.) Rhee's (overly) ambitious fundraising goals may lead her to rely on grants from right-leaning foundations & private sector entities. I am hopeful Rhee changes course, re-establishes an indepenent voice, stops cozying to GOP (or Democratic) Governors, and relies on a netroots fundraiising startegy that helps ensure she isn't co-opted. I consider myself a reformer, but also think unions can be partners in reform, and we don't have to wage an education civil war to arrive at systems change.
There's a flip side to this argument: teachers unions and their Democrat allies drew the long knives on Rhee giving GOP governors and anti-union activists the chance to say "toldya so." I don't think Rhee is the one who needs to re-establish cred. I think unions need to prove that they won't oppose any and every reform plan (even those championed by pro-union Dems).
If DFER and NCTQ consider themselves at arms length from an anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining Rhee, then they have a LOT of public outreach to do. As a Democrat, a parent and an invested participant in public education, y'all appear to be in lockstep with Rhee and Florida, WI, NJ, Ohio, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee and most disappointing of all, Arne Duncan.
The author's point seems to be that Rhee has worked with conservative governors who are anti-public union and is therefore...something. Would it have been better if Ms. Rhee hadn't worked to improve the education of Florida's children? If so, then this is a critique of Rhee's reforms, not where they took place.

These are separable issues, but if you wanted to critique Rhee's education reforms you would have to know something about them.
Rhee works for the right wing. This is news. That was clear at the time of the last democratic/republican nominee debate. presidential debate. At that time McCain litmus tested Obama to see if he would bow to the praise the new DC Chancellor-which he obliged. The following day when Rhee was asked her opinion she stated that she wasn't sure if she would vote for Obama because he was too pro union. There is nothing new here. She is what she has always been. A union buster for the conservative cause. This has been the set up since day one.
Please do some real reporting...
I'm amazed how many untested and likely counterproductive positions Rhee holds are taken as progress because she was a tough-guy reformer in DC. Basing teacher pay on what is purported to be performance - test scores - moves schools away from the student-oriented team approach that is needed for real improvement. I don't want money-motivated, self-interested young people attracted into teaching any more than I celebrate the leaving as early as possible by many good teachers who are simply wearied by the pressure and dismal morale.
You all should check out the Daily Kos for some doc's that show her true colors.
Meanwhile, the education reform the country desperately needs becomes the battleground for `reformers` vs `anti reformers` and America keeps loosing ground educationally, financially, and socially, as when a society is divided in obsolete thinking no good results can be expected. Meanwhile the students keep failing in math and other vital sciences required to move the country forward.
Great article idea but it missed something potentially significant -- Students First hiring Hari Savugan. That would have taken 5 seconds on Google to discover. I'm not saying that the Savugan hire means much, but odd that it was omitted from an article on this topic.

Another thing that would make this article add some value is to figure out what Parker's role is in the organization, maybe get a quote from him. Quoting an online opinion piece by Rhee instead is pretty lame.

Also, because it's relevant, you could have described Rhee's positions or attitudes on other big Republican issues like immigration and gay rights. Rhee would be pretty out of step with Republicans on social issues.

Where this article can be helpful is to explore more the question of whether Rhee is simply a bipartisan education reform advocate, as she claims, or if she's fallen on one side or another of the partisan divide, which exists even among the strongly pro-education-reform community. In other words, would Obama/Duncan ever appoint her to their Administration? I highly doubt it, unless it were to coopt her. Would a Republican politician? They have certainly tried in NJ and FL.
You might be curious to learn about Rhee's role, as reported in IG Gerald Walpin's report on Sacramento's St. Hope Academy, in concealing allegations of child sexual abuse made against former basketballer, St. Hope founder, and now mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, for whom Rhee now plays 'skreeching harpie beard', by aiding and abetting offers of payoffs to victims...

Given her history of cheating on standardized test scores, abusive behaviour toward students and teachers, and her role in the IG's report, she's one creepy charlatan... that should probably be prosecuted rather than given a public platform to tout 'reform' in service to right wingers like Medicare fraud and now governor of Florida, Rick Scott....
So where is the investigative journalist who discovers that Michelle Rhee is a Moonie whose job it is to work with the Republican Party to make charter schools the dominant educational system in this nation? This would be so that her True Father can buy them all up and teach his divinity to the unbelieving Americans.
The Rhee bashers almost want to make ME a Republican - no slander is to great to defend a dysfunctional bureaucracy.
Sac High was a great area high school. Then Mr. Johnson turned it into St. Hope Academy. Last time I checked it was shut down. This school was exactly in line with Mr. Mayor's future fiancé has in mind for the rest of the nation schools. We can go past simple debate and look at the actual data...the schools and what happens when the "school reform" crowd get their way. We get failure. Look it up.
When I hear Education needs reforn because of the Teachers and the Teacher's union, then I know that they have no clue to what the problems are. I have worked with Unions in school districts for many years and never had one problem, because I trained every employee that was hired to work, I also developed duties,criterial based performancereviews, polices and procedures developed a manuel for all employees and reviewed it at all employees training sessions. I explained to each employee that the union did not own the work that was required of them to perform,but the union was there to make sure all employees are treated fairly,respected and paid a fairly. What that ment is you have the requirements of the job and thats' what is expected of you and the union was invited to all meetings. Iwas not a cirtificated employee adm. I was a classified manager.

The cirtificated Adm. saw what was happening with the classified employees and said to me we need to follow your program. The one thing I saw in the cirtificated section they hired thechers with no management experience they had never supervised anyone before, never had to do perfoemance of their staff never was able to give a improvement plan saying this the improvement that's needed. If you are not able to set up and improvement plan for your employee showing that you gave the employee a improvement and follow up to see that the plan is being met then you are not doing your job.
There should not be any politics involved in education, left, right, in the middle. Education should be just that, education. Children need to have good competent teachers. Teachers need to have security. In every walk of life, there are good producers, mediocre & poor. That goes for everything that humankind engages in. It takes time to implement change, as it takes time to see whether or not it works. Unfortunately, the people who demand and make change, are almost always gone before the results are in.

Be it by design or something else, we have only to look at the Financial situation in the U.S.A. today, to see where so called changes for the better have brought us. Doing away with Unions, has turned this country into one where it's failing. To play with the education as put forth by so called smart individuals, seems like it's just more of the same. Are the children of America worth experimenting on due to political whims of others who have already gotten their education?

Prove that getting the changes called for, by getting rid of the politicians that are corrupt, the leaders of the Financial house's that have devastated the middle class, end the wars that have wasted so much in treasure, both monetarily & human suffering. It's time to clean house from top to bottom, before the cleaning in the middle or below takes place.
Of course she's a closet republican. You can tell, just look at who she's chosen for a boy friend - another politician with sex scandals trying to bust out from under the rug...

Gotta be a GOPer....
Michelle Rhee is a political parasite of the educational system. If anyone stepped up to the plate this year and yelled at teacher's unions and fired teachers, they were anointed by the far right and pulled under their wing. What makes one person this complete expert on education that she speaks for the entire industry? She did nothing more than get rid of the dead weight in the profession. I think every good teacher would be in favor of that, however, the problem comes to surface in judging who stays and who goes. If you suck up to the administration, you get a free pass. You lose your right to be who you are. Unions are important in education. They fight for academic freedom, due process and they are the only ones there when a wrongly accused teacher finds themselves in trouble. If you are in trouble, you deserve to lose your job, but you deserve the same protection a criminal receives. Schools Boards and districts operate outside of the law to protect their precious administrators accused of doing the wrong thing and the great majority never lose their job. The attack on teachers is a ruthless plan by the political right. If you think young kids will go into this profession with the lack of pay, mediocre benefits and testing as the almighty determiner of their success, you can forget that. Women traditionally became teachers but they are outperforming men and now dominate the medical profession as they aspire to make more money in more prestigious jobs. Good luck finding teachers in a time when baby boomers are leaving. Oh, I forgot! Republicans will just outsource jobs for lower pay. Welcome to the Dumbing Down of America. This is what the right really wants, low pay to a privatized industry.
Everyone quoted in this piece has the same complaint, which amounts to: BUSTED!

D'oh! Yes, Rhee has made the goals of the corporate-education-reform movement clear. Education policy is complicated, and a lot of centrist Democrat types were previously flimflammed. That's all there is to id.
Ms. Rhee started her education career as a 2 year teacher in Baltimore. She was there as a Teach for America fellow. TFA leads to cheating because of its outsized emphasis on test scores. Here's a quote from the recently disgraced (and coincidentally retired) superitendent of Atlanta Public Schools, "In many of my school visits, I go into classrooms where there are Teach For America teachers, and I’m always impressed with them. I think Teach For America is having an impact in more ways than we probably even realize right now.”

Dr. Beverly L. Hall
Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

The last sentence is the kicker.
In the past moth Michelle Rhee's Students First poured millions of dollars into a mail (very expensive and slick)effort to lobby the Michigan Legislature on her education busting agenda. To date I have been unable to identify the soursce of this state wide effort of massive spending to influence legislators.
Repeated requests of the organization have produced no answers but rather a computer generated "thank you for joining" Does anyone know where this funding originates?
Michelle Rhee is nothing but a whore to the corporate right -- sometimes literally -- and her faux fiance, for whom she acts as skreeching harpie 'beard', Kevin Johnson, former basketballer and founder of St. Hope Academy in Sacramento, and now mayor of same city, has been found to have defrauded Americorps funds to the tune of nearly ONE MILLION BUCKS by an Inspector General of the USGovernment, as well as mishandling of allegations of child sexual abuse made against Johnson himself, complete with offers of payoff money to silence victims made by Rhee herself...

She is a DISGRACE to education, and is a CLEAR demonstration of what happens when an individual's personal ambitions collide with the better good of the community... She is a DISGUSTING and willing shill for the corporate right in America, and she should be ousted from any narrative involving public education FOR GOOD....
I'd like to see more articles like this one. Do you know where I can find them?adhd blogChildren with ADHDThere is a ppelerxing state of affairs in today's society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, 'Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?'The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, 'Oh, those are children with ADHD' or 'Those are the children who can't sit still.' Or 'That is the kid that always gets into trouble.'These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD? ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood? ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term? The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.? ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.? The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don't have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.? ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to 'cause trouble' by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often. ? Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.? Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I'll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as 'Children with ADHD'
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