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Michelle Rhee, Giving the Teachers Union the Finger

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Posted on August 2 2010 12:00 pm
A concerned American citizen who found her voice before the 2008 election when she undertook the task of debating with progressives about the impending doom of an Obama presidency. Ann has a Masters in Religious Education, and uses blogging as a way to uncover the lies of the Left.
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In the politics of education, who is better? A Democrat educator who kowtows to the teachers’ union, or one who gives the union the finger? Well, if you were a sheep/donkey, you might call a rogue administrator “an upper-middle-class Korean American” or some such detraction because leftists always refer to ethnicity or race when they don’t get their way.

On Friday, July 23, Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, Democrat, Harvard grad, and fiancée of Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, fired 226 teachers for poor performance. Another 737 are on probation, and must prove themselves worthy of the high standards Rhee has set for them. She had the audacity to tie teachers’ pay to their performance when negotiating with the Washington Teachers Union.

However, the “Washington Teacher’s Union President George Parker classified Michelle Rhee’s actions as “punishment-heavy and support-light,” reports the Post [WaPo]…As it stands, the union will protest the 226 D.C. teachers fired.”

Why? Because unions exist for one purpose: to negotiate outrageously high salaries for their members in order to line the pockets of the union bosses. If that means keeping crappy teachers on the payroll forever, and completely ignoring the children at the same time, well that’s just the way it is.

Rhee made it clear to Mayor Adrian Fenty back in 2007 that she would only agree to take the position if he granted her free reign.  Translation: she would act like a CEO and make tough decisions, and she wasn’t going to pander to the union. Instead, she tells them what she is going to do, thus gaining the upper hand in a political war with the Left. From the WSJ:

Ms. Rhee is smart enough to know that when she negotiates with the unions, the shift to charters and choice in the district gives her more leverage for the reforms she needs.

Her winning formula for the kids includes hiring competent teachers who are given incentives to become even better. It has taken her only three years to turn the abysmal D.C. Public schools around. They now have the highest percentage of growth of academic performance of all the nation’s schools. When Rhee came on board,

Washington’s $1 billion schools budget gave the system the third-highest per-pupil spending in the country, but much of the money fed a bureaucratic monstrosity that relied on disorganized paper files, kept paying ex-employees while missing paychecks to current teachers, let new textbooks and equipment languish in warehouses, and lacked even a firm enrollment count.

The story is an age old one of incompetence, mismanagement, and a system mired in bureaucracy and oppression by unions. Any changes Chancellor Rhee can make that steer leftist run public schools into the direction of a competitive marketplace and away from big government have to be good for everyone.

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