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Michelle Rhee pushes the parent trigger in Tallahassee


Rhee2Despite mounting criticism over a possible cheating scandal in Washington, D.C., education activist Michelle Rhee was in Tallahassee Monday to discuss a flurry of schools-related proposals in Florida.

"We're here to answer questions and lend our support in any way possible," Rhee said while waiting to meet with House Speaker Will Weatherford.

When asked which bills she was lobbying for, Rhee directed a reporter to the website for her education nonprofit, StudentsFirst. The organization lists performance pay for teachers, expanding school choice, and empowering parents as its top legislative priorities.

It's no secret that Rhee supports the Parent Empowerment Act, better known as the parent trigger. The proposal would let parents demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools, including having the school converted into a charter school. 

Teachers' unions, parent groups and school districts oppose the measure, and Democrats have voted against it at almost every stop. Still, the bill has already won the support of the House, and is awaiting a final committee hearing in the Senate.

In a brief interview Monday, Rhee said opposing the bill is "an unconscionable position to take."

"We talk to members [of StudentsFirst] everyday who are frustrated because their children are trapped in failing public schools..." she said. "In my mind, we have to empower our parents to be better advocates for our kids."

Rhee made the same argument to House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston and Democratic Leader pro tempore Mia Jones earlier in the day, Thurston said. 

"I told her our concerns," Thurston said. "We think there are already ways for parents to get involved, and we don't need our public schools being taken over by for-profit organizations."

Is Rhee's visit to the Capitol a sign that the trigger is in trouble? 

"I hope so," Thurston said, noting that the proposal could die for a second year in a row in the moderate Senate.

Rhee, who led the Washington D.C. school district from 2007 to 2010, has long been a lightning rod for controversy. She's back in the news this week, after a memo surfaced purporting to show evidence of cheating during her chancellorship. The Washington City Council will hold a hearing on the issue later this week.

Comments

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Ro Jensen

Why are we listening to this charlatan, cheater, non educaotr, liar? Please someone tell me why she gets any air time? There are no faling schools...they are abandoned schools...abandoned by the legislatures who continue to defund and demean the teachers who work with the neediest kids in the neediest neighborhoods. No one is asking for this in Florida. We have methods to turn around our schools in place. THis woman, who claims teachers making $40,000 are on the gravy train in education, while making $50,000 a speech spewing her anti teacher and public school garbage, needs to be in jail for her actions in D.C. just like the people in Atlanta. Get her out of my state.She knows nothing about education as a whole, and even less about the state of Florida.

Linda

I agree that parents should feel empowered to put their children first. CA resident Michelle Rhee can do this for herself and her daughters by living with them in Tennessee.

CA Maestro

Why is it that the only time Rhee wants to empower parents is when she needs help closing schools and opening charters? What about empowering parents to help their kids show up to school daily - fed, nurtured and ready to do the work?

Dennis

Empower the parents ... I am pretty sure most teachers would just like the parents to return a phone call, participate in a conference, come to open house, or just be involved in their child's life. While they demand more from teachers and students why not demand the parents to do their job.

Mark Halpert

I, like most parents, would find it unconscionable position to support this bill. The Parent Empowerment Bill as initially written was a poorly veiled attempt to privatize schools. There is a real need to involve parents, and that is where the focus should be.

If the Florida Senate say "No to Parent Empowerment and Yes to Parent Involvement" they would be heading in the right direction

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