Let's Face It: School Reform Will Always Be Political

Conflict can't prevent reform, says ex-DC schools chief Michelle Rhee
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 6, 2010 1:59 PM CST
DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, right, talks to third grader Kmone Feeling, Aug. 23, 2010 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – Michelle Rhee intends to keep fighting for school reform—but she doesn't expect to make friends doing it. Education is an inherently political issue, the ex-DC schools chancellor argues in an op-ed for Newsweek, announcing her plans to launch a "new national movement to transform public education." Rhee, who was lionized in the film Waiting for Superman, says she always knew she'd face opposition in her quest to reform DC's schools. "If we did the job right for the city’s children, it would upset the status quo—I was sure I would be a political problem."

Education is just like pharma, or tobacco, Rhee argues, with everyone from textbook manufacturers to food vendors working to steer policy. These special interests "have created a bureaucracy that is focused on the adults instead of the students. Go to any public-school-board meeting in the country and you’ll rarely hear the words 'children,' 'students,' or 'kids' uttered," she writes. Now Rhee is starting StudentsFirst, "a national movement" focused on promoting the interests of our kids. "Though we’ll be nonpartisan, we can’t pretend that education reform isn’t political."

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