Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Teacher contract funds solution: make Rhee stay

My colleague Bill Turque details with his usual care the unusual situation created by the new teacher contract that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has negotiated with the Washington Teachers Union. She persuaded four foundations to contribute $64.5 million to support big new teacher raises. As the headline on Turque's story says, "If Rhee leaves, donors could pull funds."

The solution seems obvious to us fans of the chancellor. Make Rhee sign something that obligates her to come up with the $64.5 million herself if she leaves and the foundations withdraw their support. Her fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, is a former National Basketball Association star who, I hear, is careful with his money, so she should be good for it.

I am only half kidding here. Rhee is not going to leave that job while that contract is in force. This deal is her baby. She is not going to abandon it. If you read between the lines of Turque's story, it is clear that most of the people involved in this situation know that. What is in doubt is whether she might be fired before the contract is over. That would almost certainly lead the foundations to withdraw their money, becaise they wouldn't trust anyone with it other than the one-of-a-kind chancellor Rhee. The city schools would then suffer a sudden drop in expected revenue.

So write up a contract for yourself, Chancellor Rhee, that promises YOU aren't going anywhere, and will pay up if you do. Also, make sure that contract says if you are fired, you have no obligation to help the city out. This is a very creative and promising approach to teacher compensation that should be tried. People choosing between Rhee's backer, Mayor Fenty, and his opponents in this year's election, who haven't said what they would do with Rhee if elected, should know the potential consequences of their vote.

Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.

Follow all the Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page, http://washingtonpost.com/education.

By Jay Mathews  | April 28, 2010; 12:37 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Make Rhee stay in DC, have her sign contract promising to pay for foundation fund loss if she leaves, won't have to pay if she is fired  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Explosive book for a new teacher generation
Next: Admissions 101: Need a good college? Ask a pro.

Comments

So much for building a sustainable "reform" effort that is not dependent upon one person.

Cult of the Personality:
Leader-Michelle Rhee
Follower-Jay Mathews

And I thought it was all about the kids.

Michelle Rhee is much like Sarah Palin:
C'est moi!

Posted by: edlharris | April 28, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Are you joking? Jay, you can't be serious. A public institution's personnel decisions should be beholden to private interests? Edlharris is right, if you actually cared about the children in DCPS, you would not want this.

We thought this was about the kids, but it's really about the Chancellor.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | April 28, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Jay is joking because clearly everything was just great with DC schools before Rhee. Oh wait, no, they were the shame of a nation. Rhee is the hope that the DC school system has, and she is backed by Fenty. They have both shown great courage in the face of entrenched interests. Showing them the door would be a great signal to the country that daring to address the problems is a sure fire way to get canned and the best course is to mollify the powerful, who by the way are NOT the children.

Do I agree with everything they have done? Of course not. Do I think that they are committed to greatly improving the educational possibilities afforded to the children of the DCPS? Absolutely. Do I think the pros far outweigh the cons? Without question.

Posted by: JoelB8 | April 28, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This is "the ends justifying the means" and is undemocratic. At least that is the way it looks on the face of it. Maybe I'm missing something.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 28, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Jay - With Rhee being so important to the contract, shouldn't there be a clause laying out what happens in the event of her demise or of another dire circumstance that that prevents her from carrying out her duties?

Is there an heir waiting in the wings? Who chooses him or her?

Posted by: efavorite | April 28, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Watch out efavorite! Some will accuse you of willing Miss Rhee's demise.

But excellent point, as I have been making.

What will Jay say?

Posted by: edlharris | April 28, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Joelb8 - that's the old status quo argument.

Rhee hasn't changed anything for the better. Scores are rising in DC at the same pace as they have been for the past 10 years, through several different superintendents, and the achievement gap has actually widened under Rhee, which Mathews has acknowledged. Changing superintendents doesn't do anything towards changing the negative life circumstances that too many of DC's kids experience.

Posted by: efavorite | April 28, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

The letter seems clear that a change in leadership is cause for a reevaluation by the foundations of their support. It doesn't matter if she is fired, quits or crushed by a cornucopia of caustic comments. Of course if she is fired, I imagine the foundations will view that more negatively than they would if a "dire circumstance" occurred and she was replaced by someone who shares her approach to education reform.

Posted by: horacemann | April 28, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

This should be seen for exactly what is.
Walmart doesnt allow unions for its own employees, so the intent to break the union is clear. How can you say you're about the kids? Urban districts are now treated like 3rd world countries. I dont want a PEACE CORPS framework implemented to teach my kid. Teaching/Education isn't a 3 yr "community service" endeavor before you start your REAL career. That's what Teach for America(Rhee) boils down to, resume filler for grad school apps.

Posted by: isupreme | April 28, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

efavorite raises a good point, but too ghoulish for me. I will stay with what I wrote. I think she is a creative and productive leader, and I think she can do good things with that money.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 28, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Jay, please help me understand why a public institution's personnel decisions should be decided by private interests?

Posted by: peteyamama1 | April 28, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Peteyamama - it reads like a parody, doesn't it? Wait ‘til you read the editorial board's response!

Horaceman - nice alliteration - much better than your straw man arguments. And thanks for the reasoned explanation of a possible Rhee transition. I still want to hear from Jay, though, because he called her “one-of-a-kind” suggesting that no one could pull of DC school reform but her.

Ed – I want her gone the least upsetting way possible. We’ve had enough drama.

Posted by: efavorite | April 28, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Jay - is it ghoulish for the President of the united states to have a vice president? For a monarch to have an heir apparent?

If one person is so important to an endeavor that the money leaves when she does, clearly there should be a plan in place if something happens to her.

That's not ghoulish; that's good management.

Posted by: efavorite | April 28, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The astute, well balanced, carefully thought out article as usual---at least for Rhee ditto-heads (same family tree as Rush Limbaugh ditto-heads).

I find it almost impossible to respond to this farce. Next up in Jay's world: Republican execs at AIG, Goldman sachs, citibank, etc pledge $4 billion dollars to fund US Dept. of Defense if Rumsfeld returns to his post and Jeb Bush is elected Pres. Not that promises of money should influence an election (re: Fenty for mayor), but this money from these private individuals is the only solution for our country's growing deficit.

Wait, wait....this just in, Pat Robertson has pledged eternal salvation for all Americans if the US elects Sarah Palin as its next president. Clearly, we all need to unite behind Palin to save the souls of all our children and fellow countrymen. And, of course, the only reasonable caveat is that Sarah Palin will have to sign a contract with the devil to sacrifice her soul if she is impeached or resigns once elected.

Not that Jay has so well articulated such a bold new way of bringing private money into public institutions, I can't wait to see what Steve Forbes does next. What will Donald Trump be able to negotiate now?

Now that promises of private donations to school systems determine local elections instead of citizen voting, I wonder how well my DC voter card will do as cigarette paper. It won't do much good in September's primary, that's for sure!

Posted by: mfalcon | April 28, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Turn the money down and get rid of Rhee.

Posted by: resc | April 28, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks mfalcon - I needed a little comic relief.

But, wait - this is REALLY just in - Gandhi won't certify the tentative agreement with the foundations' conditions, so Rhee is scrambling to find $50 million by Friday.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/28/AR2010042804159.html

More Drama! More creative columns! but how does this help the children?

Posted by: efavorite | April 28, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Grovel for that blackmail money! Jay, you have the morals of a slug.

Posted by: imback | April 28, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Oftentimes, it sounds like you have a crush on Michelle Rhee...Here's a wise question: How will this money improve overall teaching and learning “for children” in the District of Columbia's public schools? If these hedge-fund managers would “pull funds,” essentially, from the District's children (impacted youth), then their agenda is not for teachers or student achievement, rather a privatized, political agenda for greedy adults. Personally, I think the District can do a much better job than Fenty and Rhee, in terms of sustainable leadership. Dr. Clifford Janey, by the way, made the hugest impact on teaching and learning in the District, for charter and traditional public schools. Blame him for the great academic strides...

Posted by: rasheeedj | April 28, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Why hasn't Michelle built a framework for reform that's not dependent upon her?

When John Moylan left DeMatha, did it fall apart?

Posted by: edlharris | April 29, 2010 4:01 AM | Report abuse

I would just like it known that two comments have disappeared from here concerning the Washington Post Company's ownership of Kaplan. Censorship anyone?

Posted by: peteyamama1 | April 29, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Jay, who is censoring your comments board and ridding it of comments that contain no foul language or hate speech? Is the Washington Post concerned that the reasons for its true support of Michelle Rhee will be discovered?

Posted by: peteyamama1 | April 29, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

petyamam- I suggest you repost the information and alert the ombudsman

I recall seeing the Kaplan post last night, but not sure where.

Posted by: efavorite | April 29, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

false alarm - the kaplan info was posted elsewhere:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/04/gandhi_to_rhee_a_2000_surplus.html#comments

Posted by: efavorite | April 29, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Holding children hostage is what these foundations' conditions amounts too. There are many other gracious ways to let their displeasure known than this mess.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | April 29, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Holding children hostage is what these foundations' conditions amounts too. There are many other gracious ways to let their displeasure known than this mess.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | April 29, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Thanks efavorite. My apologies to you, Jay.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | April 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

oh dear. I am glad I was immersed in calling high schools for the Newsweek list and missed the Kaplan censorship crisis, and my thanks to efave for revealing the truth and to peteyamama1 for the thoughtful apology. As for rasheeedj's good question about the money, I am not really sure if it would help or not. I am doing a column on Monday about a DC school that shows, at least to me, that the secret to getting our kids up to where we want them is creating strong school cultures supported by consistent good teaching, over the long haul. Nobody can say if this foundation largess would help because nobody has tried anything even close to this before. But like Rhee I think it is worth a try. It can't hurt, as far as I can see, but if the deal falls through, which seems possible, then the importance of good school cultures---which don't have that much to do with adding big bucks---remains, even more vital than before.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 29, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Good school cultures, Jay.
I see you indirectly answered my question about DeMatha.

But why hasn't Rhee established a good school system culture that's not dependent upon her????

And "good school culture", isn't that what Patrick Pope has at Hardy????


Posted by: edlharris | April 30, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Good school culture and trust are important in any school.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 30, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

For Ed---I don't understand her take on Patrick Pope either.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | April 30, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

About Pope and Hardy, Jay, they did back out of her support for Fryer's Capital Gains study.

I guess Rhee's chancellor culture is more important than school,. culture.

Posted by: edlharris | April 30, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Jay your an idiot!! We dont want her stay. She can take that contract and shove it up her rheediculous IMPACT!! I appreciate the better sense of structure in the school system, but anyone can do what she did...or takes credit for as long as they dont have a degree, no experience, poor pragmatic skills, and cant count!

Posted by: ms88dcps | May 3, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Jay your an idiot!! We dont want her stay. She can take that contract and shove it up her rheediculous IMPACT!! I appreciate the better sense of structure in the school system, but anyone can do what she did...or takes credit for as long as they dont have a degree, no experience, poor pragmatic skills, and cant count!

Posted by: ms88dcps | May 3, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Jay your an idiot!! We dont want her stay. She can take that contract and shove it up her rheediculous IMPACT!! I appreciate the better sense of structure in the school system, but anyone can do what she did...or takes credit for as long as they dont have a degree, no experience, poor pragmatic skills, and cant count!

Posted by: ms88dcps | May 3, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Jay- This whole problem is reflective of a situation where good intentions meet with reality. The fact is that merit pay for teachers, historically, has run into the exact problem that is being discussed: funds not being able to SUSTAIN the program. I haven't yet addressed the fairness issue which remains according to most objective assesments of programs. (As an Autistic Support teacher I have particular concerns about fairness in merit pay).

However, what we are seeing in D.C. is essentially a request by a current administrator to tie a huge funding initiative to private corporations who apprently won't have their money spent in ways they don't like. I don't understand WHY it is that a major urban district that already has a strong funding base needs to completely overhaul the pay scale so dramatically that they can't meet their budgets without enormous ouside help. For me, that should make a city-wide program a non-starter.

Why not attempt this model on a smaller scale? Say, at one or two schools first and then expand as the model develops a track record? If I had a suspicious nature, I might suggest that there little appetite for trying out merit pay in DC because they know the outcomes, when objectively researched, may prove unhelpful to the larger cause. For evidence, look to the merit pay program piloted in Flroida for clues as to how it might fail to meet its goals.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | May 5, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the typos in the first post.

here's the link to the Hillsborough County, FLA perit pay experiment:

http://www.sptimes.com/2008/02/24/Hillsborough/Hillsborough_s_merit_.shtml

Posted by: Nikki1231 | May 5, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company