These two must be stopped.
I argued this publicly and privately to anyone who would listen when the school takeover was being floated and Rhee was handed the reins: this maneuver [the takeover] had nothing to do with improving DCPS and everything to do with dismantling the teacher union and outsourcing -- essentially privatizing -- public education. With every move Michelle Rhee has made, I've only grown more confident in that prediction. [as a side note, I suppose when I use "incompetent" in relation to Michelle Rhee, then I'm taking at face value her claims to want to improve the system -- I think she's a tremendously competent tool of the think-tanks and foundations that want to dismantle public education in the US, but a terribly incompetent manager.]
Now comes this bizarre move, where she and Fenty seek to invoke the same sort of emergency activity that New Orleans used after Hurricane Katrina. Under the Bush regime, neocons and neolibs alike looked to the "state of emergency" conditions to suspend ordinary regulations that sought to protect workers and turned the New Orleans rebuilding effort into a giant laissez faire showplace of corruption and thievery. Let me be clear: privatization in most of these contexts means taking public money and handing it over to cronies in the private sector, often giving far more for far less and with no oversight or accountability.
If adopted, the measures would essentially allow the District to begin building a new school system. Such an effort would be similar to one underway in New Orleans, where a state takeover after Hurricane Katrina placed most of the city's 78 public schools in a special Recovery School District. About half of the district's schools are
charters, and it has no union contract.
Unfortunately for Rhee and Fenty, DC apparently hasn't suffered any major natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake, or flood (although I might make the argument that Rhee's tenure has been an man-made disaster, maybe like an act of terrorism...though that's a bit harsh isn't it?), and I doubt Barack Obama's administration will be as friendly as Bush's was to undermining public education.
Teacher unions aren't the problem. Bad management is the problem. Critically underfunding local school in-classroom and enrichment activities is the problem. Utterly mismanaging facilities is the problem.
Yes, there are bad teachers out there, just like there are bad co-workers at most offices in the private sector, but anyone who thinks the solution to DCPS is to dismantle the teachers union is falling for the old bait and switch. Destroying the teachers union does nothing to improve education but it goes a long way toward satisfying the anti-government forces whose ultimate goal is to undo government support for education.
For years -- long before Rhee rode into town -- DCPS's problem has been a lack of good management at the top. That lack has resulted in crumbling facilities and moronic curriculum decisions that treat phys ed, art, and music as luxuries rather than integral components to education (not to mention an administrative attitude that placed little emphasis on keeping track of students and seriously underfunded guidance offices). That's where the problem lies, and until someone addresses that root problem -- the imperial central administration -- DCPS will not improve.
These two must be stopped.