Monday, August 05, 2013

Richard Whitmire on DC Ed Reform

Richard Whitmire, author of a great book, The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation’s Worst School District, with a VERY important article in which he points out that a strong reform effort has continued in DC even after Fenty and Rhee were driven out of town, despite every reformers’ legitimate fears that reform would be abandoned. There’s real reason to hope that a similar story will play out in NYC under a new mayor, as well.

These are really hard words for me to write: D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray deserves a lot of credit for improving education in his city.

In 2011, as I was finishing a book about Michelle Rhee’s (interrupted) term as D.C. schools chancellor, I predicted that despite Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s best efforts, the city schools would enter a slow death spiral — the result of reform being undermined by Gray.

At the time, there was every reason to assume the worst. When Gray was chairman of the D.C. Council, he was Rhee’s biggest critic. When he ran for mayor, his biggest supporters were the teachers unions, especially the American Federation of Teachers, whose president, Randi Weingarten, so badly wanted to see Rhee get the boot that her union kicked in $1 million to oust former mayor Adrian Fenty, Rhee’s protector. Sure enough, after beating Fenty, Gray forced Rhee out.

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