There is a new “Super-Star” in public education; her name is Michelle Rhee. Ms. Rhee was recruited to become Chancellor of the Washington D.C. Public Schools, a position from which she has recently resigned. Ms. Rhee’s claim to fame is that she wants to rid schools of incompetent teachers and reward high performing teachers in order to put “Students First”, which is the name of her new money raising project. “Students First” intends to raise one billion dollars to catalyze education reform in the United States. Sounds just wonderful, doesn’t it?
The problem with Michelle Rhee’s approach begins with her basic premise which appears to be, “Unions are bad, and if we can just get rid of the Unions, so we can hire and fire at will, Public Education will improve.” Actually we have heard this story before from Lamar Alexander, former Governor and current U.S. Senator of Tennessee, and Lamar’s Commissioner of Education Chester Finn, who statement was, “We need to get rid of the dead wood (teachers) in public schools.” It is the same song, ninety-ninth verse.
The sticking point is that teachers, long ago, formed themselves into Teachers Associations in self defense against the outrages of political hiring and firing of teachers at the whim of political patronage. In those days if your family voted correctly, you could get a job as a teacher, regardless of your qualifications. Good teachers banded together in opposition to the political patronage hiring and firing and insisted on rules governed by contracts and set up a fair method of firing teachers who were deemed incompetent. There is currently in place a system of challenging a teacher’s arbitrary and capricious firing which allows due process. The system is called tenure. What Michelle Rhee, Lamar Alexander and countless other enemies of public education want to do is replace the fair system with the old system of hiring and firing teachers at the whim of some administrator who himself or herself may be incompetent or politically motivated. The only difference is this time they have named it with the catchy, publicity grabbing name, “Students First”. Previously it was known as “Education Reform”, “Master Teacher” and “Career Ladder”. Some really well meaning and smart individuals have bought in and are on the “Student First” bandwagon.
Sorry folks; this is just another scam to destroy public education by forcing it to fail and then selling or renting public schools to “Free Enterprise” businesses and Master’s of Business Administration types to run our public schools in the same devastating fashion that they now run our banks and healthcare system. Their point is not improving finances, or healthcare or public education, but improving profits for themselves. Michelle Rhee, a former teacher, should be ashamed of aligning herself with the forces opposed to public schools rather than actually working for their improvement.
Pharmacist, Former Teacher, Former State Senator opposed to “Career Ladder”, Husband of a Great Teacher, Father of a Great Teacher, Father of a current High School Freshman, father of three other Public School Graduates, brother of a retired Teacher, friend of many Great Teachers and most importantly son of Margaret Anderson Lewis (1921-2004), another really Great Teacher.