Insight: The fleecing of Alabama education
by Sheila Hocutt Remington
Special to The Star
Oct 13, 2013 | 7085 views |  0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michelle Rhee, president of StudentsFirst, came recently to Birmingham for what Rhee said was an event "that brought together 150 teachers and parents for an open, frank discussion about solutions to raise student achievement in this city and around the nation."

First of all, there are more than 30,000 students, more than 3,000 employees and 55 schools in the Birmingham City School System. It is telling that only 150 people attended Rhee’s meeting. Of those in attendance, less than a third were educators. The vast majority ofthecrowd was bussed in by Rhee's group.

Michelle Rhee is playing a con game.Years ago, it would have been called snake oil, but Michelle Rhee calls it education reform.

The Alabama Education Association, and apparently thousands of other students and parents, were not willing to be a part of Rhee's Birmingham charade. So, with no public support, and no clamoring from the masses for what she is espousing, the question remains, “who is behind Michelle Rhee and why was she here?”

Michelle Rhee is the face of a movement to end public education. She built her career on privatizing our public education system and weakening the rights of teachers.At a time when Alabama public schools are underfunded and under attack from extremists in the state Legislature, Rhee and her organization support policies that will only continue to drain our public schools of critical resources, raise classroom size, send taxpayer money to for-profit corporations and fire some of Alabama’s most dedicated and valuable assets – our teachers.

Rhee and her group have made great strides at politicizing the school-reform issue by having you believe that her only opposition is from the extreme left of the political spectrum. In reality, the chief education advisor for President George H.W. Bush, Diane Ravitch, leads the effort to expose Rhee.Ravitch said Rhee's legacy at the Washington, D.C., school system (where she served as chancellor for three years) was "cheating, teaching to bad test, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests and a narrowed curriculum." Ravitch is referencing one the nation’s largest grade-changing scandals in history that occurred on Rhee’s watch.

Politics does, in fact, matter very much to Rhee and her group.Rhee raises millions of dollars for StudentsFirst but will not disclose the source of the money. A great portion of StudentsFirst money is spent on political candidates, opening doors for Rhee in legislatures across the country.

In Alabama, Michelle Rhee supported Sen. Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as they slashed Alabama’s education budget by more than $40 million dollars to give tax credits under the Alabama Accountability Act. This bill was passed in near-total secrecy, with no input from professional educators.

In her column, Rhee said that it was not her goal to privatize public education. Yet, she openly declares her support of charter schools - schools that are funded with public money and run by private for-profit management companies. To Rhee and her enablers in the Legislature, education is big business.

We should be funding our future, not cutting it. If people like Rhee, Marsh and Hubbard have their way, for-profit companies will be responsible for our kids' education and our state’s future

The Alabama Education Association supports targeted education reform developed by education practitioners who have the best interest of Alabama’s school children as their only interest – not the corporate bottom line.

Alabama's teachers work every day to improve the quality of instruction in Alabama classrooms and AEA stands ready to meet with anyone who is sincerely interested in improving Alabama schools.

Michelle Rhee has no standing here regarding public education. The only people benefiting from Michelle Rhee’s idea of “education reform” are her corporate sponsors.

AEA will continue to fight Michelle Rhee, Students First and any other effort to fleece Alabama schools.

Sheila Hocutt Remington is a 42-year veteran, award-winning government and economics teacher at Brookwood High School in Tuscaloosa County.
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Insight: The fleecing of Alabama education by Sheila Hocutt Remington
Special to The Star

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