Michelle Rhee is taking on teachers' unions and other special interest groups with her new politically inclined education reform organization.
Michelle Rhee has a new line to add to her resume—as CEO of a national education reform advocacy group. The former chancellor of the D.C. schools announced earlier today on the Oprah Winfrey Show and a Newsweek cover story that she's launching her own organization. Called StudentsFirst, it's a "national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world."
Rhee says she created StudentsFirst because principals, district officials, and school board members aren't considering what's best for kids. She writes in Newsweek:
"Go to any public-school-board meeting in the country and you’ll rarely hear the words “children,” “students,” or “kids” uttered. Instead, the focus remains on what jobs, contracts, and departments are getting which cuts, additions, or changes. The rationale for the decisions mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children."
According to Rhee, these key decision-makers are overly-influenced by special interests, namely teachers' unions, and she's finished believing that education reform isn't a political undertaking. Rhee battled D.C.'s teachers 'unions throughout her tenure as schools chancellor, and experienced their political power through the defeat of her boss, former D.C. mayor, Adrian Fenty. The national union, the American Federation of Teachers contributed over $1 million to labor-backed independent groups that supported Fenty's challenger,Vincent Gray.
To combat the unions and other special interests, Rhee's intent is for StudentsFirst to become an influential platform that will impact education reform legislation, policy decisions, and elections. To that end, she has ambitious goals for the organization, including engaging one million teachers, parents, students, and other community members in the fight to reform schools. And not to mention, raising $1 billion dollars within the next year.
Visitors to the site can donate money, access Rhee's blog, and view video snippets from Waiting for Superman, the Davis Guggenheim documentary that turned Rhee into a national education reform star. StudentsFirst members can also sign the site's pledge and join local groups designed to execute education reform initiatives.