by David Safier
Michelle Rhee gained national recognition as Chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools, then got kicked out when her mayor-supporter lost in November. She's a wildly pro testing, wildly anti-union "reformer" who was the darling of conservatives as well as a number of more progressive types who, I like to think, don't know enough about education to understand her agenda.
Now she's starting a national advocacy group, StudentsFirst. And she plans to be very well funded.
Through the group, StudentsFirst, Ms. Rhee hopes to raise $1 billion to dole out to political candidates who support her policies and to local school districts that adopt the reforms, such as linking teacher tenure to student test scores.
This is a political action group — yet another conservative-based money trough doling out dollars to politicians who support conservative agendas, in this case educationally conservative agendas. That means going after unions, cutting teacher protections, supporting vouchers and so on.
Educational philanthropy is becoming big business. The Waltons (WalMart), Bill Gates, an assortment of Wall Street types, etc., are all putting serious money behind their educational agendas. Bill Gates, I think, is a straight shooter. Even if I don't like all the things he does, he's genuinely trying to improve education and doesn't have a political agenda. The others are all about various levels of privatization and turning teachers into obedient, test-prep automatons. It's a growing, dangerous trend.
I have no doubt deep conservative pockets will throw lots of money Rhee's way. That's going to help elect her type of candidate and also scare others into supporting her agenda.