Michelle Rhee: Political Football & Educational Touchstone!

I suspect my evening last night was similar to that of many education policy types.  The Eduwife and I had enjoyed a quiet dinner, I was spared Red Sox misery for one night, thanks to the debate, and was frankly dozing off after a glass of wine because the debate seemed to be merely reinforcing a status quo that I like, a Dem lead.  But then, an “oh s**t” from the still-alert Eduwife jolted me back to life right at the end of the debate when D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee became a presidential political football.

So now everyone wants to know, is Rhee a voucher supporter as Senator McCain claimed?   Politico weighs-in here but Fast Company’s Jeff Chu, who profiled Rhee recently, scores the absolute must-read take on all this.  And here is a non-decisive statement Rhee issued to DC’s City Paper  this A.M.

As relayed earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal Rhee has said that, “”I would never, as long as I am in this role, do anything to limit another parent’s ability to make a choice for their child. Ever.”  But that response was in the context of whether she’d oppose the voucher program, not whether she supports vouchers as a broader policy.  I think what’s Rhee’s giving voice to here is the ambiguity that a lot of reformers see with regard to voucher programs like the small one in D.C.  On the one hand, vouchers are clearly not a remedy at any scale for what ails our urban schools and often cut against rather than for greater accountability in education.   Yet at the same time, if you spend time in schools like the ones in D.C., it’s pretty hard to get worked up about a program to provide some parents there with a better option or to argue with a straight face that doing so is somehow a threat to the Republic — as some do.  But that’s not the same as seeing vouchers as a broadly applicable or positively impactful reform. 

In any event, the future of the D.C. voucher program is a sleeper issue that will land on the new President’s desk next year…And, now is a good a time as any to read Clay Risen’s outstanding Rhee profile in the new Atlantic.

6 thoughts on “Michelle Rhee: Political Football & Educational Touchstone!

  1. Reason

    “Rhee has said that, ‘I would never, as long as I am in this role, do anything to limit another parent’s ability to make a choice for their child. Ever.’ ”

    If Rhee believes her own words then she serves as a great example of how acceptable socialism has become for edu-bureaucrats. Rhee would seem unaware that compulsory attendance, taxation, union power, and political (in all its guises) control has vitiated the education frontiers for children as a whole and has violated the most basic human rights of parents. Public schools are incompatible with liberty and conscience.

    If Rhee is aware of the contradiction in her stance, then shame on her.

  2. john thompson

    By the time President Obama’s education plan is working through Congress, Rhee will be in a Palin-like freefall. If I believed that accountablity could be the driving force of reform, I’d find an Un-Rhee to carry the banner. I don’t know much about Micheal Bennet except for Katherine Boo’s great New Yorker article, but the Denver plan is the antithesis of Rhee’s plan, and its a viable accountability plan.

    Besides, Denver is much more representative of more school systems than D.C. It doesn’t justify the extreme narcissism of Rhee’s approach, but if you have cancer that has spread widely, then you’ll risk drastic treatments (such as Rhee’s extreme solutions for D.C.).

    Besides, Rhee’s comments that Obama’s education policy scares her does not say much for her judgment. P.S. is it true that Klein is moving towards a more balanced approach on data-driven accountability? And Vallas and Canada signed the Bolder, Broader Approach! Moderation is breaking out all over, making Rhee stand out as the extremist (on education) that she is.

  3. Reason

    The “Bolder, Broader Approach!” strategy, if implemented, will move America yet that much closer towards full socialism. When you combine this effort with other proposals from its signatories and their ideological kin, like (more) socialized healthcare, continued socialization of the finance industry, mandatory public service and so on, you begin to see the totalitarian nature of the political power structure.

    If you combine it all with the existing Industrial Complexes, military and prison to name two, and let’s not forget the live wars and other right wing calamities, a synthesis seems to be on the up. For it isn’t specifically a Nazi brand of socialism or solely a Bolshevik form, but a uniquely American style. It is all very totalitarian nonetheless.

  4. Lion

    NCLB PL 107-110 and 10% with radical Rhee reform ? Counsil members were exasperated with Rhee’s handling of a proposed $100 million re-shuffling of school funds last week. That’s interesting and eight months prior Levy with Reform Project for Washington Lawyers asked,”what is the $794.6 million based on ? “Does it start from the ground up with what schools need in the classroom ?” Finance officials and private auditors projected a deficit in school budget then and Fenty and Rhee slam the breaks on spending freeze. Just read now Rhee wants to call a US “state of emergency” for it’s schools to ease way for system-wide over-haul. A move to eliminate the need to bargin with Washington Teachers Union. With 15 states engaged in law suits pending with the Federal Gov. over the lack of funding with NCLB and 10 % she wants to call DC a state of emergency ? Meet the needs in all Public School Buildings for the best interest of children. The stategic planning of Rhee’s reinforcement ship for NCLB on 10 % ? Icebergs ahead ! Send in rescue ships ! Will Rhee re-write educational laws and the Constitution as she navigates into the Twilight Zone of Educational Reform. Policies in education are not going to be effective without field support. We are losing 50 % of our teachers within five years in the US and Rhee keeps firing them. Now would be a good time to read Manufactured Crisis and grab Guskey and Marzano. To many millions,back down ! End the mandates on NCLB ! teacher contract in crisis bargaining and appeals with Supreme Court ? what’s going on with that mean spirited Abolishment Statute Code &1-624-08,docket #07-581 ? Unfair application of the rules ! “Throw the water Dorothy,” said the Tin man. “Help,I’m melting !” Per a Phi Delta Kappa & Gallop 2 out of 10 Americans believe the NCLB legislation should be continued without significant change. Lack of funding for schools tops the list of biggest problems facing schools. Sixth year in a row ! Looking for one fire truck and a marching band ! Justice for both the advantaged and disadvantaged ! Executive order 10925,1961 John F. Kennedy and equal treatment ! What is this reform, a fascist dictorship ? Perfer the distribution of decision-making authority between different levels and actors in educational management and a decentralization and transformation of governance.As we navigate through the storms of NCLB and 10 % with systemic conditions of economics….”Sail On Sailor” ! NCLB and 10 % will eventually sink ! Save the Paul Coverdale ! Pack the survival kits for teachers and principles for the best interests of children !

  5. LaTanya

    I am a high school histoty teacher. The first and only member of my family to attend and graduate from college. I have a large fat ass and I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. The problem with the chancellor is that she has made too many rules. The students like me and so do the other teachers. What is all this nonsense about benchmarks and evaluations? Who does she think she is coming here and firing office workers and wanting to get rid of teachers that don’t measure up to her requirements? She is out of her mind wanting to put the future welfare of the students above the welfare of the district’s employees. Someone needs to contact the Civil Liberties Union to enforce our constitutional rights.

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