When you have Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee as local politicians/influence peddlers, national news, like Rhee going back to run St. Hope schools (the non-profit that runs Johnson’s local charter schools) is not just national news but a local story, and vice versa. So let’s run down a series of local pieces (and some from the nationals) on our local “first” couple and see what it means for me, and for thee, in the education world.
So it starts local as St. Hope taps Michelle Rhee as board chair, removes superintendent in The Sacramento Bee. But given the players, there was lot’s of talk about how this figured into the larger picture of the national ed deform movement. Students First’s recent retrenchment from Minnesota and Florida and the growing prominence of Campbell Brown as spokesperson of the anti-teacher movement led to articles like this even before the announcement, Education “reform’s” new Ann Coulter: A reeling Michelle Rhee passes the lead to Campbell Brown in Salon.com.
Is she coming home merely to lick her wounds? While we in Sacramento are not sad to see her star dim, our concern remains that with her attention focused locally, it will not be good for Sacramento. Her husband, and our mayor, Kevin Johnson has been using the “unusual” system of behests to his non-profits to rake in money. In the past that money has come from Walton, for his work to end big-box regulations that got in the way of WalMart doing bidness. I have to think that “donation” was as much for her “work” on education, as it was for his work on making it easier for the yellow daisy to expand in the city. Apparently he’s found a way to milk an area deal that could turn sour for the city into butter for him and his. It’s an election year and I hate to think of that kind of dark money infecting those races. There were already signs of this in a local city council race.
I’ll leave you with two thoughts about what this means, both locally and farther a field. Locally, Rhee was a key player in covering up alleged misconduct that almost resulted in Sacramento losing the ability to receiving any federal grants, as Dead Spin points out in this trenchant piece, Kevin Johnson’s Grifter Wife Returns To The Scene Of A Scandal. But, just as this is about the individual students (and the teachers who tried to report it) whose lives were ruined by this, there is the bigger picture. I’ll leave you with this piece on the results of all that ed reform has wrought on DC public schools, where surprise, scores for non-white students dropped. If this isn’t school reform failure, what is? – The Washington Post. Now I’m loathe to judge anyone negatively on test scores, having had that happen to a school I worked in. But, when you judge others that way, an analogy to glass houses comes to mind. And if the test scores didn’t go up, what did improve with all the disruption, mess, and generally nastiness that her reign at DCPS?