Sacramento outgoing first lady Michelle Rhee and outgoing Mayor Kevin Johnson met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday as Rhee is in contention for education secretary for the incoming Republican administration.
Associated Press photos show Rhee and Johnson departing from the meeting at a Trump-owned golf club in Bedminster, N.J., smiling and shaking hands with the President-elect. Crystal Strait, chief of staff to Johnson, could not confirm if the mayor was in the room during Trump’s discussion with Rhee. See Bee article and photos here. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article115941728.html
Johnson was unavailable for comment, Strait said. According to the Bee,
"Rhee gained prominence as an education reformer while she was chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., from 2007-10. In 2010, she formed StudentsFirst, a states-based education reform organization that advocates for school-choice initiatives and has been active in elections." She has been an ardent opponent of teachers unions and a supporter of efforts such as the defeated Vergara decision. ( see prior posts on this blog). She was a significant advisor to the Broad Academy for school leadership which trains and places school superintendents including a former Sacramento Superintendent Jonathon Raymond. Graduates have advanced a corporate view of school "reform" in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and around the nation.
Outgoing Mayor Johnson has been equally controversial in education circles having taken over a black Mayor’s group and using the group and his own staff to advance school “ choice” or charter schools within the African American communities. He served with the Obama Administration as a Chair of a Mayor’s Committee on Education, advancing a pro charter position.
"Rhee has been a strong proponent of charter schools and currently chairs the board of St. Hope Public Schools, a Sacramento-based charter school organization started by Johnson.
She supports the Common Core curriculum that is unpopular with many conservatives, and which Trump has vowed to end. Like Johnson, Rhee is a Democrat. Her support of school-choice vouchers in 2013 went against the Democratic Party position."
Rhee is well known for being very active against teacher unions, blaming them for most of the problems of public education.
"Formerly high profile, she has largely kept out of public view in recent years. During the 2014 election, Rhee championed a local measure on behalf of Johnson to increase the power of the Sacramento mayor’s office. That strong-mayor effort failed at the ballot box.
The news that Rhee met with Trump brought mixed reactions in California."
"Sacramento City Unified School Board member Jay Hansen said he supports Rhee for education secretary because it would be in the “best interest” of Sacramento schools. He said the district receives about $55 million annually from the federal government, about 10 percent of its total budget, and he believes Rhee would remain a supporter of the district - and California - if she serves on the cabinet.
“I know a lot of people have varying opinions about the work Michelle has done in education, but I would certainly rather have her there than someone from Louisiana or Alabama who may not share any of the values we have in California,” Hansen said. “We have to worry about how are immigrants going to be treated in this new administration … transgender students, the budget for low-income students and English language learners. Michelle is going to be a lot more sensitive to the totality of what we are dealing with in California than the name of anyone else I’ve heard, so that is encouraging to me.”
"But teachers unions, including the Sacramento City Teachers Association, have decried what they call attempts to privatize education and erode job protections for educators. In Sacramento, StudentsFirst has stood opposite the California Teachers Association, a key ally of Democrats, on issues like evaluating schools and teachers.
Calling Rhee’s candidacy “disturbing,” California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt argued that parents and teachers had rebuked Rhee’s belief in “market reforms” that rely heavily on testing.
“That Donald Trump would appoint her is indicative of both his failure to understand where things are at in public education, but also the redemption of somebody who has been really rejected at every turn,” Pechthalt said Saturday. “Michelle Rhee is exactly what we don’t need for public education in this country.”