Monday, September 17, 2007

Democrats for Education Reform

The surprise star at last night's launch of the Democrats For Education Reform was Michelle Rhee, the new DC schools chancellor. With her humor and spunk very much intact in spite of smacking repeatedly against what may be the worst-run school central office in the entire country, Rhee regaled a crowd of about 100 national education reformers at the Hotel Washington across from the U.S. Treasury Department with fresh stories from close quarters bureaucratic combat.
One example: A DC schools bureaucrat, whose carelessness led to two special education students being assigned to expensive private providers (cost to DC: roughly $500,000 a year) nearly refused to come see Rhee. "I have to check with my supervisor."
When the bureaucrat finally arrived and was told of the expense she had inflicted on the school budget she responded, "You need to understand I am very, very busy. A few things fall between the cracks."
So what do these DC school war stories have to do with the '08 race?
With the Democratic front runners courting the liberal-liberals who are the big players in the primaries, it's easy to overlook the basics of educating kids from low-income schools, says former reporter and author Joe Williams ("Cheating our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education"), who now runs the organization.
It's time, said Williams last night, "to stand up for the little guy again" (as in, stand up to the National Education Association). In primary season, that's a tall order for Democrats. Who's going to spurn the most reliable liberal foot soldiers to be found?
The message last night, from Rhee and Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., was in-your-face civil rights rhetoric: "Children are deserving of a more perfect education," said Jackson. To him, charters are the bright option: "We need more competition in the system."
That's a message, of course, that would be hotly disputed by the NEA, which would argue that less testing and more money spent to reduce class size is the way to go, not birthing more charters and attacking union rules.
Williams and the DFER have their work cut out for them during the primaries, but the general election brings them brighter hope, right? Right?
Richard Whitmire


paul a'barge said...

Get your children out of public schools and into private schools, especially in D.C. And, demand that your public education tax dollars be returned to you in the form of vouchers.

The system is hopeless. Only competition and vouchers have hope of succeeding.

They are your children. Their education is their life. For their sake, get them out of public schools.

Anonymous said...

When I watch this, I see a schools chancellor who runs down our school system for the entertainment of others, and who is a shameless syncophant for an unscrupulous new mayor. Sorry, I am not a teacher or a member of the teachers' union. I am a DC Public Schools parent for the past 17 years who is sick of hearing DC politicians effectively say that putting your kid in a DC public school is akin to child abuse. Feh! Our kids got a great education and are well-prepared for college. This mayor took over the schools because prior to his arrival, the Council passed a massive school maintenance spending bill, and he made sure he got his mitts on the money. Rhee is in that job because this mayor only hires weak people who do his bidding--this is the "yes man" administration. I am not impressed.

Anonymous said...

"We have to be willing to break the rules." Radically changing the system is what is required, is right. Odds of success - 0%. Ms. Rhee may well find herself subject to lawsuits or even criminal prosecution. The parasites, politicians, lawyers and unions (but I repeat myself) still want to feed. Too bad for the kids in DC.

As a systems engineer and project manager, I've been through situations where a new, clean sheet of paper design is what is really needed to make significant improvements. I've yet to see a company or university really embrace the changes that were needed. Oh, they get somewhat better, but not by an order of magnitude, which is what is needed here.

Privatize the schools now. Each and every one of them. No vouchers, just cut taxes. Pay for what you get, get what you pay for. That is accountability, folks.