Home / General / Michelle Rhee: Union-Buster

Michelle Rhee: Union-Buster


Michelle Rhee’s organization StudentsLast is not just anti-teacher union. It’s anti-collective bargaining more broadly. The organization has contributed $500,000 against Michigan’s Proposal 2, which would make the right to collective bargaining a part of the state constitution.

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  • JBL

    Link says $500,000, noticably more sinister.

    • 900% more sinister!

      • mark f

        That’s my motto.

  • As soon as she went to work for Rick Scott in Florida, the cat was out of the bag. Arguably, it was out of the bag when she refused to endorse Obama in 2008. I suppose we should be grateful that Rhee has the cachet that she does–she’s highly reminiscent of early Robert Moses or late Woodrow Wilson, just so strident and assured of her morality, so convinced that bending and compromising is tantamount to a sin, that she’s essentially self-defeating as a political force. Of course, she’s married to the mayor of my hometown and my right-wing family hopes she’ll eventually take charge of the (admittedly struggling) Sacramento schools. Good Lord.

    • Comparing Rhee to Moses or Wilson is interesting.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Well, Moses and Wilson actually did some good things, even if the balance was strongly negative. Rhee is more like Wilson if he had nominated McReynolds and then resigned. But, yes, it’s an interesting comparison if there was ever some useful idealism there.

    • Julian

      Where does it say that Rhee refused to endorse Obama in 2008? I’m looking but haven’t found it yet.

      • The interview that accompanied her broom-wielding Time cover quotes her considering a McCain endorsement, since Obama was not adequately pro-charter and might take advice from Linda Darling-Hammond.

    • TT

      ….so strident and assured of her morality, so convinced that bending and compromising is tantamount to a sin, that she’s essentially self-defeating as a political force.

      One can hope. People who believe that advocating for what they see as a superior idea automatically makes them a self-evidently superior person will usually stumble and fall over the long term. She’ll get hers.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Michelle Rhee should be in jail, not directing any organization.

  • I have to wonder, was busting the teachers unions always her primary goal? Or did she start out genuinely motivated by the desire to improve schools through certain practices, get her ass kicked by the unions, and become embittered?

    • wengler

      Just another delusional person that got a whole lot of power and not a lot of sense.

      It’s like when someone wins a couple hundred bucks at the casino and tells themselves ‘I am going to do this for a living. Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before?’ And then they go bust.

      Well if you have rich enough backers objective results don’t really matter.

    • Linnaeus

      She got her start in education through Teach For America, IIRC, so while maybe it wasn’t her mission from the get-go, the institutional culture of TFA isn’t especially kind toward teachers’ unions.

      • From my experience working with TFA in Los Angeles, I would characterize their culture as openly hostile to teachers’ unions. But my experience is, of course, only anecdotal.

        TFA teachers last two years. From my, again anecdotal experience, it takes longer than that to make a good teacher.

        I’m sure there are exceptions. I’d like to see the numbers on how long they stay in the classroom. I know of one.

        • Linnaeus

          I thought TFA was a 3-yr program. I can’t cite where I found it, but I read somewhere that 50% of TFA-ers leave the classroom after their 2nd year and 80% leave after their 3rd year, i.e., they don’t continue on in teaching after they finish their “tour”.

        • Daly

          Rhee was in TFA in the early days when it had a more “missionary work” ethos. (There obviously is some anti-teacher/anti-union baked into the entire premise) She was certainly one of the first TFAers to parlay their limited experience into an ed non-profit.

  • arguingwithsignposts

    There’s a lot of techno-glibertarian chatter these days about “disrupting education.” It’s different from the straight old charter school stuff, but I’ve noticed a significant uptick with Coursera and the various Stanford, MIT, Harvard, etc. efforts. Must be an area they feel like there are some dollars to get from.

    • Linnaeus

      “Disrupting education” and “innovation”.

    • JL

      I think “disrupting [whatever]” is usually a stupid and pretentious phrase, but I’m certainly not going to slam stuff like Open Courseware or MITx that make MIT course content accessible to a wider range of people (or the Stanford equivalents). What’s wrong with that? And what does it have to do with the K-12 concept of charter schools?

  • They aren’t likely to waste that money, either. The anti-2 ads have been really nasty and really prominent around here. The basic theme is that Proposal 2 will allow felons and child molesters into your kid’s school. They’re . . . unsubtle.

    • Murc

      The idea that being a felon should forever bar you from access to polite society is one of the more depressing facets of our society.

      And of course it only applies to LOW-CLASS felons. Housebreaking makes you a thug. Manipulating option ARMS to break a million homeowners makes you Galtian Jesus.

      • Holden Pattern

        Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
        I’ve seen lots of funny men;
        Some will rob you with a six-gun,
        And some with a fountain pen.

        And as through your life you travel,
        Yes, as through your life you roam,
        You won’t never see an outlaw
        Drive a family from their home.

        • DrDick

          My homeboy, Woody. “This machine kills fascists!”

          • Holden Pattern

            Sadly, not enough of them.

      • rea

        Of course, all the proposal would do is make such things part of the terms and conditions of employment that would be subject to collective bargaining if the workers organized. Does anyone really think a teachers’ union is going to strike over whether convicted child molestors can be teachers? Or that such a strike would be winnable?

        • Cody

          Haven’t you heard, Unions are unstoppable forces of greed. Thank Jesus for large corporations like the Koch brothers barely able to fight them back, lest the rest of us decent folks lose our shirts to them.

          They can strike over anything they want, and the employers will have no choice but to yield.

    • Icarus Wright

      Meanwhile, Jeff Irwin from the Michigan HOR simply sent out a list of all 6 ballot proposals and their language…costing, one assumes, far less than Rhee’s lie-vertisements.

    • What does the polling on this look like? Or at the very least, what is your sense of its chances to pass?

      • djw

        In a few minutes of poking around, the only poll I found was 48-43 in favor (early sept)

        • Fake Irishman

          The polling is close. The numbers I’ve seen — one from a Detroit News Poll and one from a Lansing firm, have both in the low 40s. I don’t know how good the polls are or how the questions were phrased, or whether undecideds were pushed or not. Conventional wisdom says that ballot initiatives that aren’t polling above 50 percent lose, but labor has one heck of a ground game around this one that a lot of other issues haven’t had. I wouldn’t be surprised if it lost 55-45, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it eked out a win. Any Michiganders who are passionate about this should google “protect working families” and find a local county group to make phone calls or go canvassing.

      • Given the slew of ballot proposals this year it’s really hard to tell. There are six of them, some of them very confusing, and I haven’t seen anything I’d call reliable pointing to big leads for any of them, for or against.

        Prop 2 at least has plenty of lawn signs and TV ads going in its favor, which is more than can be said for the against factions on Prop 5 (Bring California’s disastrous tax laws to Michigan) and Prop 6 (Rich guy doesn’t want anyone competing with his bridge to Canada) where the big money boyz seem to be all but unopposed in terms of paid advertising. If 2 fails, it won’t be for lack of support.

        Prop 6 is opposed by enough other people (including the Republican governor) that I doubt it’ll pass. Even with all the ads in favor of it, it’s just too parochial.

        But it’s Prop 5 that’s the really dangerous one, and I have seen hardly a peep about it, though that may just be me. If that passes, we’re going to be regretting it for decades.

        • Linnaeus

          But it’s Prop 5 that’s the really dangerous one, and I have seen hardly a peep about it, though that may just be me. If that passes, we’re going to be regretting it for decades.

          I’m telling every voter that I still know in Michigan to vote no on Prop 5. We’ve had the two-thirds requirement here in Washington (though not as a constitutional amendment) and it’s on the ballot again here (and leading again, sigh). Washington’s tax structure is different from Michigan’s, but the two-thirds rule has had a pretty negative effect.

          And then, of course, there’s Prop 13 in California…

        • witless chum

          One thing I wondered it anyone knew about, at what rate do voters just not vote on ballot proposals they don’t understand?

          Prop 6 really is assery, it’d require a ballot referendum on spending any public funds on an international bridge. The UAW is apparently playing footsie with Matty Maroun(the billionaire behind the bridge nonsense), seeking to get support for prop 2 by at least not opposing prop 6.

          There’s a lot of heat on Prop 3, which would require utilities to generate 25 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The utilities are spending a lot of money against it.

    • Linnaeus

      I was a bit surprised to find that even the Detroit Free Press, normally a pro-union paper (at least more so than the right-wing Detroit News) editorialized against Proposal 2.

      • rea

        the Detroit Free Press, normally a pro-union paper

        The Free Press, is historically the Democratic paper, the News being Republican. But in the late 80’s, the two papers merged much of their operations,and they went through a 3-year strike 1995-1998, eventually resolved in court. So, no, at this point, it is not all that pro-union.

        • Linnaeus

          Yeah, I remember the JOA and the strike (I left Michigan for graduate school in 1997). I suppose I should exaggerate the Freep’s pro-union stance, but at least its ed board acknowledges that they do some good, as opposed to the Detroit News‘ typical Wall-Street-Journal-on-the-Detroit-River stance.

          Which is setting the bar low, I know.

          • Linnaeus

            Er, make that, “I suppose I shouldn’t exaggerate…”

          • Barry

            Aside from the fact that the Freep is in the end the Detroit News in drag, it’s the norm for alleged elite liberals to oppose teachers’ unions. It’s a good litmus test.

        • Fake Irishman

          And the Freep wouldn’t even meet with supporters of issue 2 before the paper made its call. They are sympathetic to unions in general, but often flub many key specifics (like many of our “progressive” friends *cough* Nick Kirstof *cough*. Last year for example, their editorial page editor Stephen Henderson reflexively opposed Graduate RAs organizing at the University of Michigan because UM’s president said it was a bad idea. I spit tacks with rage when I read it.

        • witless chum

          My grandma stopped subscribing to “That scab newspaper” at that point.

  • markg

    So who is bankrolling Rhee and her organization? I’m going to speculate that the usual right wing suspects, (Koch bros. and so forth), are lurking in the background somewhere.

  • Barry

    Actually, the question is better asked – who in the education ‘reform’ movement is *not* neoliberal looters?

  • TCinLA

    I’ve paid a fair amount of attention to education “reform” over the past 60-odd years, first as a victim of it and later as a mere observer.

    I was in the last class in the Denver Public Schools to be taught phonics in first grade; the next year the great reform of “word recognition” was brought into reading. Fortunately both my grandmothers were teachers and had taught me phonics when they taught me to read two years previously to that. In sixth grade, the school administrators (at a loss for what to do with a kid who told the 6th grade science teacher there were 103 elements when she said there were 100, and made it stick because the discoverer of the 103rd element had been a Sunday dinner guest at his home the previous weekend) found out I had a college freshman reading level (when that meant something) in sixth grade. My brother and sister, both victims of “word recognition,” were lifelong reading-avoiders like most of the rest of their generation. (I myself have been politically active and a published writer in several venues, including the movies, for the past 40 years).

    In high school, I got “new math,” which was even more of a mystery to me than old math, and for which I spent two years getting through one year of algebra.

    Graduating 125 from the bottom of a high school class of 900, it was obvious that the only college that would accept me on my return from a mistaken side trip to the military that included being present at the creation of the Great Lie that started the Vietnam War (the Tonkin Gulf non-“Incident”) would be the Number Two Teachers’ Training School in America, now known as the “University” of Northern Colorado and a hotbed of education “reform” for lo these many years. “Edumacational Psychologicalism” consisted of rote memorization of His Eminence the Professor’s book, spewed back in “fill in the blanks” tests. I left at the end of that term.

    Let’s see, then there was the 1980s with “Whole Language,” in which the victim was made to sit next to a Great Book so that the ability to read it would ooze from book to victim by osmosis, and when said victim could put three words together than made sense if read upside down and backwards, they were given a Big Prize for having been there to participate so their Self Esteem wouldn’t be more destroyed than it already was by their dunking in Public Miseducation.

    Let’s put it plainly folks: if you can’t read, you can’t think. Reading is the study of publishable writing, which follows rules of logic and presentation and reference to independently-verifiable facts. By doing this for a few years, you learn the process of Critical Thought (something the Republican Party is Officially Opposed To, given that they understand that ability to engage in critical thinking means one will never be a Republican).

    If you want to know how the Stupidification of America happened, you need look no further than those hotbeds of intellectual zest, America’s schools of public miseducation, where those who cannot find another paying gig become Professors of Education. As the old saying goes, “those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”

    And idiots like Michelle Rhee, the living embodiment of what is meant by the old Texanism, “she *needed* killin’!” continue to be taken seriously.

    How glad I am I never had children to inflict this bullshit on.

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  • What is a “Yes on 1240” ad doing under this article? This is a dangerous initiative in WA brought to us by a handful of billionaires with the same agenda as Rhee. I wanted to share this link, but will not since it gives this ad more views.

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