News broke yesterday that Michelle Rhee, founder of the anti-teacher group StudentsFirst and former chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., is planning to step down as CEO of StudentsFirst. Joy Resmovits (Huffinton Post) said that as local media “reported that StudentsFirst is winding down activities in at least four states, Rhee has taken on other jobs.” It was also reported that Rhee will “become board chair of St. Hope Public Schools, a charter school chain run by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (D).” In addition, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. recently announced that Rhee would join the company’s board.
Resmovits said that if Rhee does step aside, StudentsFirst will lose its “main attraction.” She wondered if Rhee’s organization “will draw as much attention without its famous founder.”
A few weeks ago—prior to the news that Rhee would be giving up her leadership role with StudentsFirst—Jeff Bryant (Salon) wrote an article titled Education “reform’s” new Ann Coulter: A reeling Michelle Rhee passes the lead to Campbell Brown. Bryant said that as Rhee’s school reform efforts had begun to “flounder, new links emerge between a group she founded and a new face, Campbell Brown” He added that Rhee had “been upheld in the media as someone with the formula and fight required to ‘fix’ public schools.” Bryant continued by saying that Rhee had provided “lots of attention-getting optics for a movement made up of rich and powerful people who press their belief that what ails public education most is ‘bad teachers.’”
Supported by shadowy money and shaky science, these wealthy folks have created a “blame teachers first” campaign that seeks to address education problems rooted in inequality and low investment by attacking teachers’ job protections and professional status. Their efforts are, of course, “for the children.’…
Rhee’s reputation as a shining star of school reform has begun to dim—not only because of the unresolved cheating scandal that reportedly occurred in D.C. while she was chancellor, but also because her “StudentsFirst campaigns have done little to animate parents.” According to Parents Across America, Rhee was actually unable to draw sizable crowds at a rally in Connecticut and at a meeting in Alabama back in 2012.
Parents Across America:
Wendy Lecker of Parents Across America- Connecticut pointed out that “Despite about $700,000 spent by StudentsFirst in Connecticut, the rally at the State Capital where Rhee was the featured speaker drew only about 75 people.”
In Alabama, Rhee failed to win charter school legislation that would have drained two million dollars from already cash-strapped public schools. While she claimed her state organization had 17,000 members, only about twenty showed up at a meeting she called at that state’s capital.
NOTE: The StarTribune reported in July that StudentsFirst would be shutting down its office in the state of Minnesota and scaling back its operations in Florida in order to “focus on political battles elsewhere.” In addition, Rhee’s organization may eliminate staff members in other states.
Julie Woestehoff, head of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), a PAA affiliate in Chicago, said that Rhee “clearly does not represent the mainstream views of parents or the public at large.” She added that the majority (58%) of respondents to a 2010 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup survey “supported helping existing local schools and school staff.” She added that just 13% of respondents were in favor of closing down schools or reopening them as charters. Woestehoff also noted that Rhee “has consistently refused to disclose her funders…” –who, according to reports, “include billionaires and hedge fund operators who support a destructive agenda to privatize our public schools.”
Bryant noted that with “Rhee and StudentsFirst sinking under the weight of over-promises, under-performance, and unproven practices, the Blame Teachers First crowd is now eagerly promoting Campbell Brown.” Brown recently launched her own anti-teacher/anti-tenure group called Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ). Her first order of business was filing a “Veraga-inspired lawsuit in New York State to once again dilute teachers’ job protections, commonly called ‘tenure.’” The suit claims that public school students suffer from laws “making it too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to fire bad teachers.”
Bryant said that Brown actually started her anti-teacher campaign some time ago—when she claimed “that the New York City teachers’ union was obstructing efforts to fire teachers for sexual misconduct.” According to Paul Farhi (Washington Post), Brown’s group Parents Transparency Project “raised $100,000 for a TV ad campaign during the city’s mayoral race that asked whether any of the candidates had ‘the guts to stand up to the teachers’ unions,’ which the ad implied had delayed action on 128 cases of misconduct during the preceding five years.”
While some teachers accused of misconduct had remained on the job, the ad distorted several aspects of the emotional issue. One is that 33 of them had been fired. The balance were either fined, suspended or transferred for minor, non-criminal complaints. The other was the ad’s implication that the city’s main teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, had impeded the disciplinary process. As the union pointed out, however, under state law, non-criminal complaints against teachers are handled by independent arbitrators. Neither the union nor the mayor had a say in such cases.
That’s not the only time that former broadcast journalist Brown got her facts incorrect. She once wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which she accused the teachers’ union of “trying to block a bill to keep sexual predators out of schools.” Bryant said it turned out that the teachers’ union actually wanted to “strengthen the bill, not stop it.”
Like Rhee, the “star” school reformer who preceded her, Brown won’t divulge the names of the wealthy folks funding her organization and her effort to eliminate teacher tenure. Brown appears confident and “undaunted” in her anti-teacher quest to eliminate due process for public school educators. And she’s getting good press. It appears most members of the mainstream media support Brown’s efforts. After all, she is doing it on behalf of “millions of school children being denied a decent education.” She’s just like Michelle Rhee, the prefect model of a school reformer with no ulterior motive behind her anti-teacher crusade.
Why Are Campbell Brown, David Boies, Robert Gibbs, Hedge Fund Managers, and Other Wealthy Elites Going after Public School Teachers and Their Right to Due Process? Part II: David Boies, Star Lawyer and School Reformer (Flowers for Socrates)
Education “reform’s” new Ann Coulter: A reeling Michelle Rhee passes the lead to Campbell Brown—Exclusive: As Rhee’s efforts flounder, new links emerge between a group she founded and a new face, Campbell Brown (Salon)
Parents flunk Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (Parents Across America)
StudentsFirst pulls up stakes in Minnesota (StarTribune)
Campbell Brown’s Ridiculous Attack on Teacher Unions (Huffington Post)
A Story About Michelle Rhee That No One Will Print (Taking Note)
Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error (Taking Note)