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StudentsFirst will be in Seattle

…and that is not a good thing.

Ms. Rhee (pronounced “re”)

StudentsFirst is an organization created by Michelle Rhee after her tumultuous tenure as Chancellor of DC public schools. She was supported by Eli Broad who threatened to pull his financial support for the DC public school system and Rhee specifically if she was not selected to continue as Chancellor of DC schools after Mayor Fenty’s failed re-election bid. After Fenty, who supported her policies of firing first and asking questions later, was booted out of office, and when it looked like the new mayor would not be keeping her on, Rhee decided that it was time for her to high tail it out of town as well. That’s when she founded StudentsFirst. Broad and the Wal-Mart Walton’s went with her and pulled all of the funding that was to support the merit pay scheme for teachers that she had touted. Now DC is holding the bag financially for her little escapade. As posted in Scathing Purple Musings, How Michelle Rhee Orchestrated a Deceitful Billionaire Bait and Switch.

Washington Post reporter Bill Torque takes a close look at the DCPS budget and notes there’s a serious difference between Michelle Rhee’s budget and that of her successor,  Kaya Henderson.

One of the more striking line items on the operating side is for private grant funds. They averaged about $21 million between 2010 and 2012, as the Broad, Arnold, Walton and Robertson foundations supported the labor contract negotiated by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, one that eliminated seniority preferences and established big performance bonuses under IMPACT.

But the Rhee Effect is there in bold relief on Page D-2. With Rhee gone and the three-year foundation commitment up, private largess is considerably more scarce. Grant funds are projected at just $3.8 million for FY 2013, an 82 percent drop. Officials have announced that the cost of the IMPACT bonuses has been passed on to the individual schools

Rhee’s got egg on he face this morning. She’s been running around telling all those hot and bothered republican governors that merit pay can be funded by the philanthropic sector. While on  a trip to Michigan here’s what she said  in March of 2011 when asked how Florida would fund its new merit pay program:

As for the money aspects, she noted that Washington D.C. schools, where she was chancellor, did get grants and outside funding to support a move to a performance-pay salary system. Rhee said “significant interest” remains in the national funding community to invest in such efforts, which could be paired with local and state decisions on how to change spending to cover the costs long-term.

I guess that Eli Broad, Wal-Mart and Rhee have moved onto something else and have left DC holding the bag on that merit pay scheme they pushed through. Florida legislators have done the same thing. Incoming house speaker, Will Weatherford wrote in a December 2009 Gainesville Sun op-ed piece that Race to the Top funds would give teachers “real financial rewards for excellence.”  It didn’t. Jeb Bush admitted in September 2011 that the legislature wasn’t funding merit pay.

Broad and the Walton’s did move on, to fund StudentsFirst.

Rhee is now under investigation for cheating scandals that occurred during her watch but that doesn’t keep her organization from tooting the horn of devaluing the entire profession of teaching.

A protest in Sacramento during an appearance of Rhee.

And of course, who could forget the time when she fondly recalled taping the mouths of her students when she didn’t know how to manage her class as a first year Teach for America, Inc. (TFA, Inc.) recruit? Or when she started to mimic the way one of her African-American students spoke during that same narrative? It was enough to make me somewhere between sick and furious listening to her joke about this with a group of first year teachers.

The Magical Me Ms. Rhee is also on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors along with Steve Barth, Founder and CEO of KIPP charter schools, and his wife, Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of TFA, Inc. It’s a very cozy situation with this ed reform group.

A protest in Boston.

Going back a bit further, Rhee spent three years teaching as a TFA, Inc. recruit. and then went on to found an organization called The New Teacher Project before being selected to lead the charge of education reform in DC schools as Chancellor by former Mayor Fenty. Rhee had no previous experience as a principal or a superintendent running a school district but now she was in charge of an entire city of students and teachers with the backing of Broad and the Walton’s with mayoral control of the school system and no democratic checks and balances in terms of a fully functioning school board. What I find amusing about Rhee’s history in education is the part that she made up. See Michelle Rhee caught lying like a rug on her resume. As usual with this group, I searched for a curriculum vitae and found none for Ms. Rhee.

Now she is on a well-funded crusade, taking her dog and pony show far and wide and meeting with resistance all along the way.

So, who is bringing Rhee’s StudentFirst to town? It’s one of the usual suspects, the League of Education Voters (LEV), and there will be a panel discussion made up of, imagine this, LEV members. The panel will include Eric Lerum, Vice President of National Policy at StudentsFirst, Rosalund Jenkins, Black Education Roundtable Director at The League of Education Voters, Frank Ordway, Director of Government Relations at The League of Education Voters (who was also a guest speaker at the WSPTA Legislative Assembly), and Chris Eide, Co-founder of Teachers United (as well as former TFA, Inc. recruit who taught for one year in Seattle then quit to start a anti teachers’ union group).

A protestor in Sacramento.

For more on Michelle Rhee, I would suggest reading an article by Diane Ravitch titled Shame on Michelle Rhee, a New York Times article titled Amid a Federal Education Inquiry, an Unsettling Sight, a post by Diane Ravitch titled  I don’t understand Michelle Rhee and a post on Seattle Education titled Michelle Rhee’s Framing of the Debate on Education written by Joanna A. Bujes, a Oakland public school parent and supporter of public education who herself is an educator.

In addition to the above referenced articles, there is information on Rhee’s relationship with the right-wing element and her support of school vouchers. See Right-Wing Campaign to Privatize Public Ed Takes Hold in Pennsylvania and Michelle Rhee Steps Out With Scott Walker To Accept DeVos Accolades.

Dora

Post Script:

On a personal note, I come from a long line of proud African-American female teachers. At one time, teaching was the only profession that African-American women could participate in so that was the chosen profession of my grandmother and my aunts. I remember the first time that I heard about Ms. Rhee and how she said that she had fired teachers in DC for abusing children. I found this shocking but once I looked into it, I found that she had lied. This woman had maligned the good name and reputation of many proud, many times female and mostly African-American teachers. How dare this woman who knows nothing about educating children and has no respect for children who she continually refers to as “kids”,  and has no respect for the culture of the people who she pretends to be championing, tell us what she thinks that we need to know about educating our own children.

I find her personally to be offensive and when I hear her speak, she sounds ignorant.

Correction: The StudentsFirst Teaching Fellow at Aki Kurose just contacted me to let me know that she is in charge of the panel, not LEV.

One comment on “StudentsFirst will be in Seattle

  1. JimCap
    April 24, 2012

    Excellent piece, Dora. Ms. Rhee is indeed, truly offensive, to educators, to parents, and to all citizens.

    And Rhee’s shameless exploitation of children for her own personal gain is truly reprehensible. Her arrogance is off the charts.

    But what she truly needs to do is explain what she knew and when she knew it, regarding the cheating scandal in the DC school district. This happened on her watch. Was Rhee too busy, posing for the cameras and spending weekends at the estates of billionaires, “networking”, that she hasn’t heard about this yet?

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