Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of schools in Washington D.C., has ended speculation about her next move, announcing on Monday that she has started a new non-profit organization that will seek reforms in public educational policies at the local, state and national levels.
Rhee, 40, who strongly criticized teacher tenure and closed down dozens of poorly performing schools over the last three years in the nation's capital, says the organization will be called StudentsFirst.org.
There is no big organized interest group that defends and promotes the interests of children, Rhee said in announcing the group in a column published in NewsWeek on Monday. We need a new voice to change the balance of power in public education.
The organization will mobilize parents, teachers, students and the broader community for educational reform policies, she said. Among its aims in its first year are to sign up 1 million members and raise $1 billion.
The announcement comes a week after Rhee was named as a member of the 18-member transition team of Republican Florida Governor-Elect Rick Scott that will create a new education system for a new economy. Rhee resigned from her post in Washington after the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Rhee said the group will battle against ineffective instructional programs and bureaucracy. The organization will also endorse and support school-board candidates and politicians who want to enact policies around our legislative agenda.
We'll support any candidate who's reform-minded, regardless of political party, so reform won't just be a few courageous politicians experimenting in isolated locations; it'll be a powerful, nationwide movement, she said.
The head of the second-largest U.S. teachers union invited Rhee on Monday to work with us to give our kids the great schools they deserve and need.
We wish Michell Rhee well and hope she learns, as we have, that promoting education reform through conflict and division will not serve the students' interests and their educational needs, said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a group which represents 1.5 million school-related personnel.
While Rhee likes to say that teachers unions are the problems, leading states and countries in educational outcomes - such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea - are heavily unionized, Weingarten said.
They succeed through teacher preparations, a robust curriculum and engaging parents, she added.
And they do so through collaboration, not conflict or scapegoating, she said.