How Michelle Rhee Orchaestrated a Deceitful Billionaire Bait and Switch

Washington Post reporter Bill Torque takes a close look at the DCPS budget and notes there’s a serious difference between Michelle Rhee’s budget and that of her successor,  Kaya Henderson.

One of the more striking line items on the operating side is for private grant funds. They averaged about $21 million between 2010 and 2012, as the Broad, Arnold, Walton and Robertson foundations supported the labor contract negotiated by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, one that eliminated seniority preferences and established big performance bonuses under IMPACT.

But the Rhee Effect is there in bold relief on Page D-2. With Rhee gone and the three-year foundation commitment up, private largess is considerably more scarce. Grant funds are projected at just $3.8 million for FY 2013, an 82 percent drop. Officials have announced that the cost of the IMPACT bonuses has been passed on to the individual schools

Rhee’s got egg on he face this morning. She’s been running around telling all those hot and bothered republican governors that merit pay can be funded by the philanthropic sector. While on  a trip to Michigan here’s what she said  in March of 2011 when asked how Florida would fund its new merit pay program:

As for the money aspects, she noted that Washington D.C. schools, where she was chancellor, did get grants and outside funding to support a move to a performance-pay salary system. Rhee said “significant interest” remains in the national funding community to invest in such efforts, which could be paired with local and state decisions on how to change spending to cover the costs long-term.

I guess that Eli Broad, Wal-Mart and Rhee have moved onto something else and have left DC holding the bag on that merit pay scheme they pushed through. Florida legislators have done the same thing. Incoming house speaker, Will Weatherford wrote in a December 2009 Gainesville Sun op-ed piece that Race to the Top funds would give teachers “real financial rewards for excellence.”  It didn’t. Jeb Bush admitted in September 2011 that the legislature wasn’t funding merit pay. Education commissioner Gerard Robinson officially made Weatherford a liar when he told the Palm Beach Post last December that districts would be paying for merit pay.

Last Monday, though, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson met with The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. We asked who would pay for merit pay. The state? Nope. “It will be up to local school districts,” Mr. Robinson said. “It always was going to be state and local.”

In other words, school districts that already face budget cuts for next year – about $53 million, in Palm Beach County’s case – will have to find money for a program they didn’t want. If the districts don’t find the money, the Legislature will blame them for failing to support good teachers, blocking education reform and undermining Florida’s economic future. Or worse.

It’s typical Tallahassee, which supports public education right up the point of paying for it.

Florida legislators clearly deceived taxpayers into another unfunded education mandate. They at least have to face voters. Guys like Eli Broad have no such worries and they lead those legislators with a baton. When billionaires – posing as philanthropists – put money into public schools to influence public policy, only to withdraw it after they’ve gotten their way, they’ve engaged in a bait and switch of unprecedented deceit. The only way out for Rhee in all this, is for her to pony up some of that StudentsFirst cash she raised based of her faux “DC miracle.”


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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5 Responses to How Michelle Rhee Orchaestrated a Deceitful Billionaire Bait and Switch

  1. paxgirl says:

    So true,Bob. It is only through the love of my students, yoga, and lots of meditation that my head hasn’t exploded from the trauma of being a teacher, and parent of a public school student, in Florida.

  2. Ayn Marie says:

    The question in education policy “should be”: Who really benefits? Talking heads put together policy that sounds good but whose consequences, both intended and unintended, can be devatating over time. Will someone please stand up and tell us taxpayers and parents how students will ultimately benefit from such policy chnages?

  3. JoSpeech says:

    Teaching works best when teachers are cooperating and working together as a community not competing for merit pay. Merit pay is very bad for everyone: taxpayers, students, teachers, local school districts, and states.

  4. Pingback: StudentsFirst will be in Seattle | Seattle Education

  5. Pingback: Michelle Rhee-Form protest in Seattle. Join us. « Seattle Education

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