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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 11/26/2008

Michelle Rhee's 'Hard Decision' to Vote for Obama

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee almost voted for Sen. John McCain in November but switched her vote to Sen. Barack Obama at the desperate urging of one of her best friends, she told Time for a profile appearing on the magazine's website today.

Rhee, who highlighted her reformer image by posing for the magazine's Dec. 8 cover with a broomstick and a stern expression, is a self-described life-long Democrat. But during the presidential campaign she frequently praised McCain's steadfast support of the No Child Left Behind Act, while criticizing Obama and the Democratic party for being beholden to teachers' unions.

"It was a very hard decision," Rhee said of her vote. "I'm somewhat terrified of what the Democrats are going to do on education."

No word on whether the intermediary was Jason Kamras, a top Rhee aide who advised the Obama campaign on education issues.

Now that Obama has won office, Rhee has reasons for both hope and alarm.

Before clinching the nomination, Obama bucked the National Education Association to introduce a Senate bill that would reward teachers according to the sort of statistically-based rating system Rhee champions. In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama also stressed the need for linking increased teacher pay to greater accountability. And in his last debate with McCain, Obama even praised Rhee, describing her as "a wonderful new superintendent ... who's working very hard with the young mayor ... who initiated, actually supports, charters." (Rhee said she slept through that moment.)

But more recently, Obama's choice of campaign adviser Linda Darling-Hammond to lead his education transition team has sent nervous ripples through the reform community. A Stanford education professor, Darling-Hammond's views are believed to be in sync with that of the unions.

Rhee said she is still hopeful that Obama and Congress--which controls the city's budget--will throw their weight behind her.

"It would send a huge message if this Administration actually took a side on where we are with the union negotiations here," she told Time.

Nurith Aizenman

By Kathryn Tolbert  |  07:00 AM ET, 11/26/2008

Categories:  Education

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