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Posted at 03:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011

What Michelle Rhee has been up to

While investigators in the District are trying to determine how much cheating there was on standardized tests while Michelle Rhee ran the city’s public school system (and there are reasons to worry it was widespread), the former chancellor has been busy joining with Republican governors to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights.

Rhee was appointed chancellor of D.C. schools in 2007 by Democratic mayor Adrian Fenty, and she just hired Hari Sevugan, former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, to be the chief spokesman for her StudentsFirst organization.

But her post-D.C. life — which began in October when she quit because Fenty lost in a primary -- has been aligned with very conservative governors who are going after labor. In fact, she has been so visible in support of anti-union efforts in state after state that she hired Sevugan in part, Politico reported, to refine her image to look more bipartisan.

Back in Washington, investigators are looking into allegations raised in a USA Today report that found there were erasures on high-stakes standardized tests flagged as outside the norm at 103 schools at least once since 2008.

That could mean that the big test scores gains that Rhee liked to trumpet as proof of her school reform were illusory. The fact that her legacy could well be unraveling in the District hasn’t stopped her from advising others on how to reform their schools.

Let’s review what else Rhee has been up to:


*FLORIDA

She is an unpaid adviser to the anti-union Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has never met a voucher or a charter school he doesn’t like. If Scott had his way, he would proceed with a program that would provide vouchers to every public school family in the state and allow them to use it at whatever school they wished. Such a scheme would decimate the public school system. (No, I’m not arguing that public education doesn’t need big changes, so please don’t tell me I am.)

Rhee is also allied with former Republican governor Jeb Bush, who has been a leader in corporate-driven education reform in Florida and the nation.

*TENNESSEE

She played a role in persuading lawmakers in Tennessee (where her ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, is the new commissioner of education) to pass an anti-union bill that, among other things, eliminates collective bargaining for teachers. She co-authored an April op-ed in the Tennessean supporting the legislation with former Republican Sen. Bill Frist. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) recently signed the bill into law.

*WISCONSIN

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, you will remember, pushed a budget that cut state worker pay, eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees, and contained other measures to weaken unions. Massive protests followed. Rhee went on Fox News to support the plan to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Take a look at the video here.

And here’s another video of Rhee, on a local news channel, talking about why it is important that teachers not have some collective bargaining rights.

OHIO

Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through SB 5 -- a bill expected to face a ballot referendum — that severely limits collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers, and StudentsFirst was there to lobby on behalf of the bill.

*NEW JERSEY

Republican Gov. Chris Christie made overtures to Rhee about serving as the state education commissioner, but she didn’t want to be constrained by a job that kept her in just one state. She has, though, expressed support for his budget-cutting policies.

*INDIANA

Rhee joined forces with Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who pushed through the most extensive school voucher bill in the country. The law will provide public money for low- and middle-income families to help pay tuition at any private school. Here you can see Rhee attending a rally in support of the legislation.

Is it just me, or does it strike you as odd that a former public school chancellor supposedly dedicated to public education wants to use public money for private education?

*NEVADA

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval recently met with Rhee and said she supports his education policies, including a teacher quality bill that among other things supports vouchers for private schools and would eliminate teacher tenure.

Meanwhile, Rhee was nominated for the Public’s Servant award by the Sam Adams Alliance. The other two nominees were Wisconsin’s Walker and super conservative Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Alas, she didn’t win. Cuccinelli did, for “challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care law.”

And the strongly conservative American Federation for Children -- which focuses on promoting school vouchers -- hosted a policy summit in Washington in March, where they gave awards to Michelle Rhee, Scott Walker and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

Well, you can say this for Rhee: She’s been mighty busy.

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By  |  03:00 PM ET, 06/07/2011

 
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