Michelle Rhee has a new position


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee.  (Bloomberg via Getty Images/ Matthew Staver)

Michelle Rhee just got a new position.

According to the Sacramento Bee she was just named interim board chairwoman of St. Hope Schools, a small group of Sacramento charter schools. The new position gives “Rhee a powerful new role in the charter school system founded by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.” But she isn’t giving up her day job, which is running the advocacy group StudentsFirst.

Larry Ferlazzo, a veteran educator in Sacramento, says on his blog:

With luck, this means she’ll have less time to damage public education elsewhere.

Her national organization, StudentsFirst, has also just pulled out of five states.

Perhaps the headline on Salon’s recent article was accurate: Education “reform’s” new Ann Coulter: A reeling Michelle Rhee passes the lead to Campbell Brown

It seems too early to completely count out Rhee, despite increasing questions about the effectiveness of StudentsFirst, staff turnover and fund-raising shortfalls. When Rhee founded StudentsFirst in 2011 after quitting her job as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, she announced on Oprah Winfrey’s show that she planned to raise $1 billion to support political candidates who believed in her style of corporate school reform and to promote those reforms around the country. First she said it would take a year, then that was changed to five years. Tax records show the group hasn’t come close to the original projection. Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week notes here that the latest records show that StudentsFirst has “distributed about $5.3 million” in political contributions since 2011.

Ujifusa also explains  why StudentsFirst is pulling out of Florida, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and Maine, while at the same time it plans to expand staff in Alabama and Georgia. (There are different reasons in each state. For example, in Florida, the group feels it has largely accomplished its policy goals.) StudentsFirst will still operate in 13 states.

Meanwhile, in D.C. Public Schools, which Rhee shook up by instituting standardized-test based accountability when she was hired as chancellor, the achievement gap that she said she wanted to close remains stubbornly wide.

Rhee served on the board of the St. Hope Schools — which has about 1,800 students — in 2006 and 2007.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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