Also in the WaPo another column* about how Michelle Rhee might not be the consummate people person. Sure, she’s not and she could do better. But, I’ll ask again the more basic question: Would things really be any different in DC if she had the political skills of say, Bill Clinton?
I doubt it for two reasons. First, some of what she wants to do and what the teachers’ unions want are simply incompatible so someone will have to give. That’s the basic calculus here and why it’s been so hard to get to a deal in DC on the teachers’ contract. If anything though, Rhee might be in a worse positionif the differences had not become so stark and obvious over the past few years. I’m not sure a bunch of niceties would have attracted the notice of the Nick Kristofs and Steven Brills of the world and started to really change the context of this debate. Second, around this country there are plenty of superintendents, traditional and non-traditional, who are far better politicians than Rhee is. And, it’s easy to forget that you can even include some of her predecessors in DC in that category (there were a bunch over the past decade…). They do all the right things in terms of managing relationships and do them well. But you know what? They haven’ t accomplished dramatic change. Rhee hasn’t yet, either, but she’s on far better path toward that goal than most if people can suck-up a little disruption, lack of stroking, and, yes, some tension in the interest of serving kids better.
The title of the column today is “Schools Pay When Rhee Snubs Donors.” OK, but another column could be, “Kids Pay When Rhee Focuses Too Much On Keeping Adults Happy.”