Michelle Rhee's Handiwork: Florida Diplomas For Sale And Much More

So Michelle Rhee hired Hari Sevugan away from the DNC to join her right-wing-in-liberal-clothing organization known as StudentsFirst. Presumably, Hari will rehabilitate the StudentsFirst image which has become irrevocably tainted with the stench

So Michelle Rhee hired Hari Sevugan away from the DNC to join her right-wing-in-liberal-clothing organization known as StudentsFirst. Presumably, Hari will rehabilitate the StudentsFirst image which has become irrevocably tainted with the stench of right-wing public school destruction. Hmmm.

This comes on the heels of Rhee's huddle with Rick Scott before he gutted Florida's public education system, her public support for Scott Walker's plan to limit teachers' bargaining rights (see video), lobbying on behalf of Ohio's SB5, a special appearance with Governor Kasich to screen Waiting for Superman, and her cozy support for Chris Christie's school-gutting ways.

Michelle Rhee claims to be all about teacher performance, but she's really much, much more than that. She advocated for school vouchers in Indiana in concert with Governor Mitch Daniels. Oh, and I can't forget her little dance with Bill Frist in Tennessee, where public school teachers are also in danger of losing their bargaining rights, thanks to her advocacy. And lest we forget, there's always the Washington, DC cheating suspicions, and her special award from Betsy DeVos, where she once again appeared in lockstep with Governor Scott Walker.

About those vouchers. Let's see how many kinds of evil they truly are. Here is Florida's voucher program in all its glory in all of its potential glory*. For the low, low price of $399 and 8 days' work, a diploma.

diplomas for sale.jpg

Eight days and $399 in cash later, at the school's Doral "campus" — a cramped third-floor office next door to US Lubricant LLC and across the hall from a hair extensions company — I was grinning widely, accepting a framed diploma and an official transcript sporting a 3.41 GPA.

The degree is accepted at, among other local institutions of higher education, Miami Dade College. And it came blissfully free of that pesky annoyance suffered by thousands of local students graduating from high school this month: education.

At InterAmerican Christian Academy, my new alma mater, to earn a diploma you need only to pass five very brief and easy take-home tests. Because I can't be bothered with such things, I distributed them to local kids ages 8 to 13 to complete. Then I copied their answers.

Interamerican Christian Academy is not subject to the NCLB requirements that public schools are. According to its about page, it's a private correspondence school. They toss up a boilerplate "Christian ideals" page to keep it in the realm of religious schools, and then accept state vouchers to teach students absolutely nothing, but hand out diplomas like they're candy. I did a podcast last week with the MOMocrats and Rachel Tabachnik where I learned that Christian schools even have their own custom-tailored Stanford Achievement Tests done which test students on "facts" as determined by Christian curriculum writers. Go read her whole post here. It's footnoted and documented with actual facts, as opposed to the emotion-ridden pablum Rhee peddles about 'failing schools and the like'.

ThinkProgress:

As Garcia-Roberts concludes, “There’s no telling how many of Florida’s 1,713 private schools — which educate a third of a million students — are run like InterAmerican. Even as Gov. Rick Scott leads a charge to privatize education on a historic scale, our state’s private schools are among the least regulated in the nation.” Indeed, Florida currently leads the country in “school choice” programs that include tax credits for private schools, voucher programs, and privately managed charter schools. The case of InterAmerican Christian Academy provides a cautionary tale about some of the pitfalls of the proliferation of lightly-regulated or unregulated private schools.

Michelle Rhee has done more harm to teachers, public education, and students in the past two years than Republicans have in the last ten, largely because she claims to be "liberal" and "on the side of students." Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that she's on the side of anyone but herself and for-profit education organizations, and it's really too bad that anyone from the DNC would join up with her to try and fool even more people about her true mission.

*Post edited in response to the comment that vouchers cannot currently be applied to correspondence schools. This is true, but vouchers may be used at Christian schools, and homeschool associations. Given this particular correspondence program's lax attention to details like actually educating students, how long will it be before vouchers head their way? See this article and this one for more detail on how Florida's voucher funds are being used right now.

The point of the Think Progress article and bootstrap to the voucher program is this: A lightly-regulated or unregulated private school program may indeed be the recipient of voucher funds, which takes money out of the public school system and awards it to church-based or corporate-run education facilities. It is impossible to say voucher funds will not be used when regulatory enforcement is expected to be nil under Scott's management.

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