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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

What is Michelle Rhee up to in Florida?

By Valerie Strauss

Michelle Rhee is the most nationally prominent figure to join Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s education transition team, but she and the other 17 have something in common: They could all be on Jeb Bush’s Christmas card list.

Bush has ties to virtually all members of the team, which is no surprise, since he has dominated Florida's politics for more than a decade, even after two terms as governor, which ended in 2007.

Rhee, the former D.C. schools chancellor who became the national symbol for business-driven school reform, has now provided some details about her tenure on the transition team.

She isn’t moving to Florida, for one thing, which is not a complete surprise, as her children are in school in the District. Rhee will serve as an unpaid adviser to Scott, who was elected in November to succeed Gov. Charlie Crist (I).

Scott is clearly intending to carry on with the reform model championed during the Bush years, and by Rhee in Washington, which center around high-stakes standardized tests and school choice.

Rumors have been circulating in Florida for weeks that Scott wants to name Rhee -- who left her D.C. post after her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost in a Democratic primary to a man who did not like Rhee’s “I know everything” style of management -- as the state’s next education commissioner. Her appointment to the transition team only fueled that line of thinking.

According to the Miami Herald, Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said Scott “definitely wants her to stick around.”

The Florida governor does not directly appoint the education commissioner; the seven members of the state’s Board of Education do. But the new governor will appoint three new members early next year, and at least one of the sitting members is believed to support Scott, the Herald reported.

Rhee has not publicly signaled what her next job will be; her two children are still in a public school in the District, and she is engaged to the mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson. She has been inundated with job offers. Rhee watchers wouldn't be entirely surprised if she headed to Tallahassee, or if her appointment to the transition team was just one of many consulting jobs she intends to take.

Rhee became the country’s star superintendent advancing this reform movement, and though results from her three-year tenure in the city were mixed, her profile remains so high that she was a guest on Steven Colbert’s Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday night.

During the conversation, she proclaimed her support for the No Child Left Behind law, which has been the target of bipartisan criticism. And she declared, without explaining what she was talking about, that “if you look at the top 5 percent of American students, that they are actually 25th out of 30 developed nations.” Huh?

Scott’s education transition team is loaded with Bush supporters -- people who worked for Bush or supported him or who served on boards with him or were appointed by him -- and Bush remains powerful in Florida politics.

Bush and Rhee share the same education reform vision, and recently appeared together as members of a panel on education reform at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Some in Florida have painted a scenario in which Bush runs and wins the presidency in 2012 and appoints Rhee as secretary of education. The flaw in that prediction is that Bush has said he is not running in 2012, though Bush watchers in Florida say they don’t think that decision is final.

Bush has made education reform his central mission since he left the governor's office, and his influence is national. He just hosted a two-day education reform summit in Washington, sponsored by big foundations and businesses, that included some of the big names in education today. Bush shared the stage with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and at one point seemed to me to be lecturing him about education priorities. There are those who think Bush would just as soon be education secretary himself in a Republican administration.

For the moment, what we can expect is for Rhee, albeit in an unpaid, advisory role for the moment, to have some not-insignificant impact on Florida education.

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This post has been updated since it was first published.

By Valerie Strauss  | December 3, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Educational leadership  | Tags:  bush and rhee, florida schools, jeb bush, michelle rhee, rhee and education, rhee and florida, rhee in florida, rick scott, steven colbert, the colbert report, washington d.c. schools  
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Comments

The public gave the reigns to someone who can't tell one end of the reindeer from another. So he grabs anyone he can. Expect Rhee to move up in his cabinet...

Posted by: educ8er | December 3, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

This is awersome news for Florida! We welcome Michelle to the Sunshine State!

Posted by: thoughts5 | December 3, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

This is awesome news for FL. We welcome Michelle to the Sunshine State!

Posted by: thoughts5 | December 3, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Valerie, for clarifying that this is a temporary, unpaid, part time position.

Do you suppose that will make the print edition?

Also, I wonder if DC residents who voted for Obama in '08 and Fenty in '10 would vote for Jeb Bush for President if it meant getting Rhee back in DC

Posted by: efavorite | December 3, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

My status as commenter on these blogs is likewise a temporary, unpaid, part-time position, but that doesn't mean I don't give it my best 100 percent effort.

Before I forget--

Enough is enough!!! Rhee must go!!!

Posted by: gardyloo | December 3, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I pity the poor teachers in Florida:(

Posted by: lacy41 | December 3, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"This is awersome news for Florida! We welcome Michelle to the Sunshine State!"

You don't know about her, do you?

Posted by: jlp19 | December 3, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I just can't wait till she starts bossing other members of Scott's education commission around - I'm sure they will appreciate it.

Posted by: jlp19 | December 3, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Tomorrow's Headline:

Gardyloo takes temporary, part-time, unpaid position as Washington Post blog commenter!

Posted by: efavorite | December 3, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

This just in....efavorite joins DCPS executive ranks as Director of Research and Evaluation. Is given free reign to perfect IMPACT and requests six years to do so, including a pilot test. Henderson requests weekly reports on progress.
By taking this position, efavorite forfeits unique status as the only paid commenter on these blogues.

Posted by: axolotl | December 3, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been a public school worker in Miami, Florida for 27-years now. And I must share my joy at the news that Michelle Rhee is coming.

I'm happy because Michelle Rhee hitched her wagon to another political figure like Adrian Fenty. Someone destined for a spectacular crash and burn. Like Michael Bloomberg, Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott bought his electoral victory in November. Like Bloomberg, Scott hires a corps of people to tell him that he's smart. And like Bloomberg, Scott hasn't got a clue. I think Scott wins the booby prize though. You have to try not to laugh at this, ok. Rick Scott says he will layoff 5% of the state's workforce and create 700,000 new jobs, simultaneously! Put that up against not allowing food stamp recipients to buy soda pop! Well, maybe Bloomberg is a bigger loon.

I'm happy because we have battled "the Jeb Bush" in Florida since 1994 and public education is still standing. The Bush Gang makes Michelle Rhee look like the sad little piker that she is. The Florida Commissioner of Absurdity Posed as Education Eric J. Smith enjoys big time status in the Bush's "kill the public schools" movement. He can manipulate graduation rates and test scores with the best of them. It's going to be fun to watch Smith and Rhee fight over the job.

But I'm happiest I think because my fellow public school workers in Florida don't know much about Michelle Rhee. Some have seen "Waiting For Superman" but those three think Michelle played Lex Luthor's evil twin sister.

I'm anxious to introduce Michelle Rhee to Florida. There's the masking tape over the mouths of Black third-graders in Baltimore and the blood. There's the miraculous rise in those same bloodied student's test scores inside of three years of teaching for which Rhee can provide no proof. There's Rhee's storybook romance with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and her willingness to share his affection with several of the teenage students at his charter school. Or at least cover it up.

Now Florida teachers may get the chance to be entertained with Chancellor Rhee's minstrel show. She does Al Jolson proud! She doesn't blacken her face but she does Black dialect as part of her routine and tells a story of bloodying Black children in a pathetic attempt at classroom management. You remember Valerie, Rhee's act was a big hit at this year's Washington, DC opening of school meeting.

Welcome to Florida Michelle, last stop headed south.

Posted by: natturner | December 3, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

"Rumors have been circulating in Florida for weeks that Scott wants to name Rhee...as the state’s next education commissioner."

Valerie, if you did your homework you'd know that Eric Smith, the current state commissioner is well respected in many circles and supported by Jeb Bush.

You'd think someone writing a blog on public education would do their homework, wouldn't you?

Posted by: phoss1 | December 4, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

This just in:
Axolotl signs up to help the Catholic Church deal with the weird questions about priests and child abuse.
He/she gives personal therapy to phillipmarlowe, who takes on the role as private eye for DCPS, WPOST and NCCB.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | December 4, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

How many of the Jeb Bush/Rick Scott Klan have actually set foot in, and spent time in a U.S. public school? (Phillips Academy Andover or Ransom Everglades are not public schools.) Problems in public education can be traced back to problems that exist in American families and society in general. It's all too easy to blame schools and teachers...and their unions.

Posted by: PublicEducator | December 4, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Phil,
Again, take advantage of the help that is provided for you, please. I wish you the best.

Posted by: axolotl | December 5, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

"Rhee became the country’s star superintendent"

When did Ms. Rhee become a superintendent?

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | December 6, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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