How much money do you think Michelle Rhee, former Washington D.C. schools superintendent who now runs an organization called StudentsFirst, charged a regional 11,000-student campus in the Kent State University public system to speak about school reform?

Did you guess a few thousand dollars? Wrong. Ten thousand? Wrong. Twenty?

In these tough economic times, when education budgets are being slashed, Rhee signed a contract (see below) with Kent State University at Stark to be paid $35,000 to speak to about 600 people, plus expenses of not more than $5,000 that the school was to provide, including:

— first-class airfare

— a VIP hotel suite

— meals and “all reasonable incidentals”

— town car and driver for ride from Rhee’s home to the airport, airport to the hotel, hotel to the engagement “or any combination thereof”

Because the venue was a school, the event was tax-exempt and therefore the part of the contractor labeled “RESPONSIBILITY for EVENT-RELATED TAXES” was crossed out.

The contract was first published by a website in Ohio called StateImpact (and then on the Web site At the Chalk Face, written by Shaun Johnson, assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University in Baltimore). State Impact also reported that some faculty members at Kent State Stark were not thrilled that she was speaking and planned a separate event to offer a different view of education reform.

Johnson wrote that Rhee had actually discounted her usual speaking fee of $50,000 because Kent State is, after all, a school.

The contract was actually between Rhee Enterprises LLC and the school, and Rhee signed for the LLC, while Tina L. Biasella, director of external affairs at Kent State Stark, signed for the school. The letterhead on the contract is the Creative Artists Agency, a literary and talent agency at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles.

Biasella said that Rhee was part of the school’s 21st annual Featured Speaker Series when she spoke Oct. 10.

“The series is an extension of our students’ academic experience and is our gift to the community. Additional speakers this year are Peter Bergen, Bill Nye and Joshua Foer,” Biasella said in an e-mail. She did not say how much the other speakers were being paid.

Updated and corrected: Corrects who published the contract first, and adds event at Kent State Stark by critics of Rhee.


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