Parents flunk Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst

Thursday, May 31, 2012

For more information contact:

Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329; leonieh@parentsacrossamerica.org

Julie Woestehoff: 773-538-1135; juliew@parentsacrossamerica.org

 Rhee report card exposes flaws in corporate agenda and failures to push through legislation in many states this year

Parents Across America (PAA) unveiled a report card (in pdf and below) today that gave Michelle Rhee’s education lobbying organization, StudentsFirst, failing grades.

The report card grades Rhee on her position on issues and on legislation she pushed in states across the country this year. Despite her ability to spend millions to hire professional lobbyists and flood the airways with ads, parents, teachers and community members were able to defeat her in Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee, Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa.

Most of Rhee’s agenda runs counter to what parents identify as their top priorities, including small class sizes, less high-stakes testing, improving neighborhood schools, recruiting and retaining strong and experienced teachers, and giving parents a real voice in governing schools.

“Rhee pushed to eliminate class size caps in Tennessee schools – and to cancel a reform that has proven to work. Luckily, the state’s parents were outraged and stopped this from happening. She falsely claims that she has over one million members nationwide, although countless individuals have found themselves wrongly listed as one of her supporters because they signed one of her deceptive petitions by mistake,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a New York-based affiliate of Parents Across America.

Wendy Lecker of Parents Across America- Connecticut pointed out that “Despite about $700,000 spent by StudentsFirst in Connecticut, the rally at the State Capital where Rhee was the featured speaker drew only about 75 people.”

In Alabama, Rhee failed to win charter school legislation that would have drained two million dollars from already cash-strapped public schools. While she claimed her state organization had 17,000 members, only about twenty showed up at a meeting she called at that state’s capital.

“When Michelle Rhee and her Wall Street backers parachute into a state, as they did this year in Florida, it’s bad news for parents and communities,” said Rita Solnet, a Florida parent and PAA founding member. “She turns a blind eye to the issues parents care most about.” Solnet worked with other parent organizations, including the Florida PTA, 50th No More, and Testing is not Teaching, to defeat a StudentsFirst attempt to pass the so-called Parent Trigger, stealth tactics to privatize schools where parents have little voice.

Julie Woestehoff, head of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), a PAA affiliate in Chicago, pointed out: ”Though Michelle Rhee has consistently refused to disclose her funders, according to press accounts, they include billionaires and hedge fund operators who support a destructive agenda to privatize our public schools. She clearly does not represent the mainstream views of parents or the public at large. According to a 2010 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup survey, 58% of respondents supported helping existing local schools and school staff; only 13% want to close schools down or reopen them as charters. Despite multiple failures getting her legislation passed this year, parents must continue to remain vigilant and fight to protect and strengthen our public schools.”

Parents Across America is a growing network of grassroots parent organizations with affiliates and chapters in fifteen states throughout the nation. We work for positive, progressive education change that is backed by research and supported by parents. Our report card for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst in the 2011-12 school year is posted here: http://goo.gl/jtj9f

For more information on Parents Across America, check out our website at www.parentsacrossamerica.org or email us at info@parentsacrossamerica.org

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Michelle Rhee Report Card

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