That’s Right Nate

Thoughts from a right thinker.

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part III

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Michelle Rhee needed a way to get rid of bad teachers.   In June of this year she dismissed about 80 tenured teachers for poor performance in June, after giving them 90 days’ notice and a chance to improve and there was barely any public protest, but this process was too slow.   Tenure was her biggest enemy because it is tenure that grants teachers the right to due process when terminated.   She finally decided to make the teachers an offer that they couldn’t refuse.

tarting salaries would leap from about $40,000 to $78,000, and wages for the best performers would double to about $130,000 a year. In return, teachers would lose tenure and be paid according to merit, measured in part by their students’ results. Current teachers would have a choice: they could join the new system or stay in the old one. New hires would have to join the new system.  And where would the DC schools get the money from?   According to Rhee, they would get it from sources.   According to Rhee, financial modeling done by a an unnamed firm shows that donations by unnamed donors would be sufficient to pay for the unknown costs of this plan. What more could anybody ask for?

Unfortunately, the teachers balked.   They wanted some kind of guarantee that the money would be there to pay them before they gave up anything.  They felt that once they lost tenure, it was gone while the private funds could dry up at any time.  There are no guarantees in life.  What makes these teachers so unwilling to trust these anonymous donors to make good on the funding?  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only problem Rhee had with donors.

Rhee was just forced to let go 200 some teachers because of a $12 million budget shortfall, but many local philanthropy groups who have supported the DC schools through the years no longer have any relationship with the school system.  They complain that Rhee won’t tell them how the money would be spent and has shown little interest in building a partnership with them.

“I don’t think she has been as open to partnerships as our foundation community would have liked,” Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, told the Washington Post, “Everybody wants to be of assistance. . . . The only way we’re going to find out if we can help is to have a little bit more of an open relationship.”

According to Robert McCartney of the Post, “A key moment occurred in July 2008 when Rhee met at the World Bank with dozens of top donors who belong to the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. She asked for donations of about $40 million, which she hoped to combine with grants from national foundations to give her a total of $70 million, according to several people who attended the meeting. The donors were disappointed when Rhee said she would provide little detail about what the money would pay for.”  Some people just want guarantees for everything.

[In the next and final installment, Michelle takes lemons and makes lemonade.   Thrill as she takes a $12 million budget shortfall and uses it to get rid of 200 experienced school teachers after the first month of school.  If you haven’t read the other parts of this exciting tale, please start with part I and if you still have the stomach to push on for the last part, click here to link to part 4.]


Written by thatsrightnate

October 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

One Response

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  1. Nate – Here’s an angle on the RIF that you might want to consider. I pulled this comment off of a washingon Post online article about schools hit hardest by the RIF:

    “I’m normally skeptical of conspiracy theories, but at work here is the destruction of public education and a fascist regime controlling the schools. Fascist regimes come to power during times of turmoil to restore order. This is accomplished largely by instilling fear and eliminating non-conformist. There is absolute power at the head. It’s no secret that private companies and the business community benefit when schools fail, and are forced to undergo restructuring by private organizations. The schools that were targeted needed the most and were hit the hardest. How can this be justified?”

    Posted by: wisdomseeker1 | October 24, 2009 10:56 AM


    October 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

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