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Rhee now hiring lobbyists to work on anti-teacher Ohio bill

May 25, 2011


Does anyone believe Michelle Rhee when she is out telling anyone who will listen that she is a Democrat?  The list of right-wing Governors she has been working with has been growing quite long: Chris Crisite (R) NJ, John Kasich (R) OH, Rick Scott (R) Florida, Scott Walker (R) WI, Rick Snyder (R) MI.

I mean, who is this woman kidding?  Certainly not anyone who is paying attention.  My fellow teachers: This woman is dangerous and she is supported by billionaires who want to remake education while not knowing anything about it, think: Bill Gates saying class size doesn’t matter, or Eli Broad saying he knows nothing about teaching but knows how to manage a business.

It is growing increasingly obvious that teachers and teacher’s unions need to stay STRONG.  We need to be ACTIVE, we need to highlight how much we help our students succeed and we need more people well versed in what is going on who can defend us – people like Diane Ravitch.  This brings me to a question I have thought about quite often.  Where the hell is the head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Randi Weingarten?  Why isn’t she out on the road working on behalf of teachers?  We need someone strong in that post, someone who can get into the news and start speaking truth to power.  Below are some excerpts from Sam Stein’s Huffpost article on Rhee and lobbyists.

WASHINGTON — The nonprofit group set up by former Washington D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is facing criticism for hiring a lobbyist to work on controversial legislation in Ohio that partially restricted the collective bargaining rights of teachers.

Between January and April of 2011, StudentsFirstemployed Robert Klaffky, the president of firm Van Meter, Ashbrook & Associates and a close adviser to Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) to help push various aspects of education policy.

In particular, the group, established by Rhee after she left the D.C. school system following then-Mayor Adrian Fenty’s defeat, had Klaffky work on SB5, the infamous anti-collective bargaining bill passed into law but already facing the likelihood of referendum.

Klaffky, in a brief phone interview, said that as a lobbyist for StudentsFirst he did not work on some of the bill’s toughest provisions, including language that limited collective bargaining rights among public employees (including teachers) for benefits, or language that eliminated blinding arbitration and prohibited those same employees from striking. Rather, he confined his work to the issue of merit pay.

“The only piece of that that I touched was specifically the teacher evaluation language that was put into SB5 and that was on behalf of StudentsFirst,” he said. “There was a feeling that you can’t have merit pay without some sort of evaluation. You can’t just leave it to the whims of a principal. It just had to be something objective, some kind of process. The House ended up adding language that filled that out a little bit.”

Mafara Hobson, a spokesperson for StudentsFirst, also stressed that the lobbying related to last-in-first-out layoffs for teachers, evaluation processes, merit pay and other topics. While collective bargaining was not a topic of organizational focus, she stressed that on this matter, Rhee and Kasich did not see eye-to-eye.

“She has never spoke specifically on SB5,” said Hobson. “I know our first meeting there when we had a press conference she and the Governor were very clear that there were things she didn’t agree on. People think she is against collective bargaining and that just isn’t the case.”


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