Tag Archives: Michelle Rhee

StudentsFirstNY

Because—you know—nobody cares more for New York public school children than hedge fund managers, an executive for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and a divisive former Washington D.C. schools superintendent

Now that the nation has seen how an influx of cash from rich, well-connected conservatives can impact the outcome of a local political campaign (the defeat of the recall vote of Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, a huge blow to organized labor), it is time for New Yorkers to gear up for the 2013 mayoral election, in which the outcome will decide the city’s education policy for the next four, eight, or  12 (?) years.

Assuming Michael Bloomberg doesn’t find a way to run for a fourth consecutive term of office, next year’s race will be an opportunity to take the city’s schools in a new direction, or to continue with the current “reform” measures, designed to render the teacher’s union less powerful and to reap benefits for the private sector.

Pursuing the latter alternative is StudentsFirstNY, founded in April as a spinoff of former D.C. schools superintendent Michelle Rhee’s national organization, StudentsFirst. She, along with Joel Klein, executive vice president of the News Corporation and former New York City schools chancellor, Eva S. Moskowitz, founder and chief executive of Success Charter Network and a former city councilwoman, and Edward Koch, partner at Bryan Cave LLP and former New York City mayor, are among those listed on StudentsFirstNY’s board. Topping that list—perhaps in more ways than one—is  billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, chairman and C.E.O. of Tudor Investment Corporation and founder of the Robin Hood Foundation. He is number 330 on Forbes list of top billionaires in the world.

A reference to Rhee’s taping her students’ mouths shut during her first year of teaching (See We Don’t Need Another Hero 10/15/2010)  Source: Living Behind the Gates (http://livingbehindthegates.wordpress.com/)

In 2013, expect to hear more calls for charter school expansion (as the city continues to shut down failing public schools) and support for efforts to roll back teacher tenure and seniority rights. To be sure, StudentsFirstNY, with its huge war chest, will be sending out the message to vote for candidates who are in line with these positions.

A countervailing force began coalescing in May among the city’s unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, to thwart StudentsFirstNY. Dubbed New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, the organization is getting its game face ready for the elections next year. “New Yorkers for Great Public Schools refuses to let the education of the next generation be sold to the highest bidder,” it says on its Web site.

Summer Reading: The lessons of Wisconsin

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We Don’t Need Another Hero

I didn’t get an invitation to a free screening of Waiting for Superman. So, money being tight, I haven’t seen it yet. Recently a friend treated me to a movie, and Waiting for Superman and the bank-heist action thriller The Town were showing at the same multiplex. Given a choice between a movie starring Harlem Children’s Zone’s Geoffrey Canada and D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and one starring Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm, I chose the latter. Come on, who wouldn’t?

oprah-superman

The media blitz surrounding the release of Waiting for Superman in late September was hard to escape, though. NBC kicked off a week of nightly education news coverage with a town hall meeting, timed to the movie’s release. Oprah hailed it as “the movie that could revolutionize America’s schools,” and Rhee as a “one-woman tornado at the center of a Washington, D.C. storm.” I feel that I’ve read enough reviews, news and commentary to know what it’s about, but I will reserve judgment until I’ve seen it for myself.

In the meantime, as I mentioned in my last post, D.C.’s education-reform mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated in the Democratic primary, and, as expected, Rhee turned in her resignation on October 13. Who knows where she will turn up next, but she is another example of the kinds of policy wonks with little or no experience in the classroom who think they know better than veteran teachers how to educate the nation’s children.

Rhee taught in a predominantly black Baltimore elementary school for all of three years as a fast-track recruit for Teach for America before starting the New Teacher Project, her base for advocating  nationwide education reform. Her first year as a teacher was disastrous, which is not unusual; many new teachers struggle through their first year. But listening to her gleefully telling tales of taping pupils’ mouths shut to keep them quiet makes one wonder whether she should have been sent to the rubber room with the other “bad” teachers that she was so eager to fire.

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In the News…

For more commentary on hedge funds and charter schools, read Margaret Kimberley’s blog entry in the current issue of BlackAgendaReport.com. Kimberley writes about how hedge fund investors are bankrolling insurgent candidates in local elections to challenge anti-charter school incumbents.

In one local primary, however, a charter-school proponent was defeated after one term in office. Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty lost to City Council Chairman Vincent Gray in what could be seen as a vote of no-confidence for the educational policies of the mayor and his controversial, anti-union schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Will she be getting the pink slip? Stay tuned…

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