Michelle Rhee, Go-to Girl For Scott Walker's Union-Busting Ways

This interview where Michelle Rhee celebrates Scott Walker's union-busting ways was recorded on March 5, 2011, at the height of the protests in Madison, Wisconsin over Walker's union-busting bill.

On Wednesday, over 7,000 emails were published from the early days of the Walker administration in response to an FOIA request. They were quite sanitized and redundant, but this little nugget jumped out at me while reviewing them last night.

The day after Scott Walker announced his intention to strip teachers and other public employees of their collective bargaining rights, his staff was brainstorming ways to counter the inevitable outcry from teachers. Their goal was to "correct their message" before they could get outraged enough to get a message out to the community. After considering a letter out to them all, one staffer suggested that they get Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst to get involved. Click on the image to see the larger version.

Staffer Chris Schimpf wrote, "I wonder if we should talk to michelle rhee's group, students first. If we could get her to come do something, that would give us a lot."

Andy Kroll at MotherJones:

Schrimpf was right about the teacher outrage. Teachers in Madison staged "sick-outs" the week after Walker unveiled Act 10, shutting down the city's schools for several days. Hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers joined the throngs of protesters marching in the streets around the state capitol to protest Walker's anti-union bill. They held aloft signs reading "Your Children Are Our 'Special Interests'" and "Care about educators like they care about your child."

Michelle Rhee, who ran the Washington, DC, schools system from 2007 to 2010, never made a big public appearance in Wisconsin as envisioned by Schrimpf. But Rhee did defend some of Walker's anti-union measures twice on television soon after he announced his plan. "The move to try to limit what [public-sector unions] bargain over is an incredibly important one," she said on "Fox and Friends."Months later, Rhee appeared alongside Walker at a DC meeting of the American Federation for Children, a hard-line conservative education organization founded by Betsy DeVos, the wife of Amway heir Dick DeVos and a funder of numerous conservative causes.

Since leaving DC, Rhee has embraced and promoted a more conservative, anti-union education reform agenda. She pushed a bill in the Tennessee legislature that ended collective bargaining for teachers, stumped for Ohio's SB 5 bill (later repealed via referendum) which restricted bargaining rights, and has worked as an unpaid adviser to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a tea-party-favorite who "has never met a voucher or a charter school he doesn't like," as one education reporter put it.

Yes, all that and the fact that Rhee's agenda is so much like the ALEC agenda for public schools that she may as well have written it. Or did they write hers? They're that interchangeable.

If you want a picture of what Michelle Rhee supports, just take a look at Wisconsin. On June 5th, we'll find out if the state supports Walker's union-busting ways (and by extension, Michelle Rhee's), or whether they're going to stand for the middle class. If you can help get out the vote, please do. It's a squeaker right now.


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