Here are some basic facts about Alabama. They have the most draconian immigration laws in the country, forcing people to produce identification proving they have legal status before they can even get water service, much less an education for their children. Under Alabama's horrible law, teachers are required to check the immigration status of their students. These policies are inhuman in a state where there are already far too many poor people, citizen and immigrant alike. Also? Alabama does not currently have charter schools.
Alabama's education system is underfunded and in need of reforms, but not Rhee's flavor of reforms. To get a sense of who she really is, watch the video at the top where she admits she was a bad teacher while selling herself as a reformer.
And now she's sold herself to Alabama as The Great Education Savior, under what can only be described as very strange and odd circumstances.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s office did not notify the State Board of Education or the state school superintendent ahead of a meeting Tuesday between legislators, state officials and that Rhee’s group, StudentsFirst, would be working in Alabama.
Dr. Tommy Bice, state school superintendent, said he was “surprised” to read in a newspaper that the outside group was being brought to Alabama to work on education and that neither he nor members of the State Board of Education had been notified of the meeting.
It would appear that Rhee is playing right into the union-busting strategies formed by ALEC. According to the Birmingham News, there are some specific policy objectives surrounding her "consultancy":
An education reform group headed by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools, is working in Alabama toward changes in state education laws that would allow charter schools and revise tenure, Birmingham News writer Marie Leech reported.
Tim Melton, vice president of legislative affairs for StudentsFirst, met with lawmakers and state officials in Montgomery Tuesday, and said the group's first priority is getting charter school legislation passed.
Let's have a look at the parallels between Michelle Rhee's priorities and ALEC's.
- ALEC and Rhee support teacher evaluations in which fifty percent of the total score is comprised of student test scores, the implementation of “mutual consent” transfer policies, and the weakening of teacher tenure (Rhee calls for its elimination);
- ALEC and Rhee support Parent Trigger legislation;
- ALEC and Rhee back alternatives to traditional teacher certification;
- ALEC promotes vouchers through means-tested eligibility or universally. Rhee favors means-tested vouchers but has not yet spoken in favor of universal vouchers;
- ALEC supports more charter schools and looser restrictions on charter authorizers. Rhee calls for lifting of charter school caps and less restrictive charter regulations (e.g. her bill currently being pushed in Missouri, HB 1228.)
- ALEC’s bill prohibits collective bargaining in its entirety. While not in complete agreement with ALEC, Rhee calls for limiting collective bargaining, to areas of professional development and wages.
- ALEC actively promotes virtual school legislation. Rhee supported Senate Bill 904, which "would facilitate the creation and continued operation of Pennsylvania's charter and cyber charter schools."
There's only one material difference between Rhee and ALEC, and that concerns immigration. Rhee made a major push on Change.org to support the DREAM Act. ALEC supports legislation just like Alabama passed, mandating that state and local law enforcement enforce immigration laws and teachers check students' residence status before allowing them in the classroom. So how is it that Michelle Rhee can reconcile her assistance to the state of Alabama with her views on immigration? Is she that cynical? That self-serving?
There are far too many similarities between Rhee's "reforms" and ALEC's to believe she isn't acting in concert with them. However, if that tin foil hat doesn't fit, perhaps it is just as simple as this: Rhee serves one master and that would be the one that donates enough money to her non-profit organization to pay her a nice fat salary to destroy school systems nationwide.
Here's what one Alabama citizen thinks of Rhee's charter school ideas:
Ultimately, what’s going to happen if charter schools are allowed in Alabama, is that public schools are going to have even LESS money than they already do. Charter schools are going to be established and promoted by the Republican controlled state government and you’re going to see an even greater segregation than we already have. Education WON’T improve with charter schools, and could even become worse if we begin to see teachers dumbing down tests and changing answers like what happened in D.C..
Of course, there's also all that money sitting on the sidelines waiting to be invested in for-profit K-12 education. Surely that's not a motive. Is it?