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Rhee and Weingarten: How About Two Mediators?

Contract talks between DCPS and teachers' union reps resumed a few days ago, but the principal players aren't saying much. That includes newly minted mediator Kurt Schmoke, who when asked for an interview--even with the provision that he didn't have to wade into any pesky contract details--said he'd have to take the request to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

He must have misplaced our phone number, because we haven't heard back.

One shaft of light did escape this week, however, and it doesn't suggest that things are going all that well. In a Q&A with education writer Linda Kulman, posted yesterday on PoliticsDaily (Full Disclosure: your Wire correspondent is married to the editor-in-chief) Rhee pronounced Weingarten a liar. It came in the course of lamenting the "misinformation" in the press about her proposals.

"What was the misinformation?" asked Kulman, who did her own disclosing that her son and Rhee's younger daughter attend the same DCPS elementary school.

"That we were going to make everyone give up tenure, that I was trying to fire people. That's not the case," Rhee said. "I don't have any interest in making people give up their tenure. We wanted to provide a choice for people and, regardless of what choice you made, everyone was going to get paid more money. That was what made it to me a no-brainer. What was communicated was that everyone had to give up tenure and your evaluation is going to be all based on test scores. The AFT still says this -- Randi Weingarten said this the other day -- that it's all predicated on moving older teachers out and moving younger teachers in. That's just a lie."

Neither Rhee nor her spokeswoman, Jennifer Calloway, would provide the basis for this claim. As best we can tell, Rhee is talking about Weingarten's April 21st letter to The Post, which referred to an editorial noting that after the foundation money was gone Rhee planned to sustain the pay hikes with savings gained through reforming DCPS.

Then Weingarten said:

"The editorial failed to mention that these savings can be achieved only by hiring lower-paid, less-experienced teachers. This age-old practice would serve the District's bottom line but would ultimately shortchange students."

As for lying, AFT spokesperson George Jackson said today that Weingarten "has no idea what [Rhee] is talking about. And given that they have spent so many hours in mediation, if the Chancellor felt misinterpreted she could have brought this to [Weingarten's] attention directly."

Rhee spokesperson Calloway, said: "There are numerous ways to fund a contract, and the financial modeling used for DCPS' last proposal was based on current seniority demographics. We have earnestly restarted negotiations; the comment made to PoliticsDaily was out of admiration for our hard-working teaching corps, and intended only to correct misinformation. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the WTU and the AFT to quickly reach an agreement that is respectful of teachers, good for children and supportive of our collective reform efforts."
Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  May 8, 2009; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Who’s Lying – Michelle Rhee or Michelle Rhee?

Michelle Rhee, 5/7/09: "I don't have any interest in making people give up their tenure….”
(Politics Daily)

Michelle Rhee, 11/13/08: “Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions,” she said, “but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults. If we can put veteran teachers who have tenure in a position where they don’t have it, that would help us to radically increase our teacher quality. And maybe other districts would try it, too.” (NY Times)

Michelle Rhee, 5/7/09: "I'd rather have a great teacher in a school system for two years than a mediocre teacher for 20 years" [It takes three years to get tenure] (DC Wire)

5/7/09 “In my second and third years of Teach for America-I taught a group of 70 kids there with another teacher-we took a group of kids who were performing at the bottom and took them to the top.” (Political Daily)

Rhee, paraphrased in Time, 11//26/08: “The second year, Rhee got better. She and another teacher started out with second-graders who were scoring in the bottom percentile on standardized tests. They held on to those kids for two years, and by the end of third grade, the majority were at or above grade level, she says.

2/9/09 “we have teachers who put their feet on their desks and read the paper while students run around.” [Washington Post op-ed written by Rhee]

2/13/09 “We have teachers, you know, who are out there who do, you know, do some things like that.” [Rhee in response to TV 4 NBC newscaster challenging that claim]

Continued, below

Posted by: efavorite | May 9, 2009 12:04 AM | Report abuse


Who’s lying, Michelle Rhee or Michelle Rhee?

3/13/09 Letter to teachers: “You are the agents of social justice in our nation’s capital. You’re far more powerful than the Senators and Congressmen who work just blocks away from our schools. By pushing forward in the face of daunting challenges, you are providing the one thing that will give our children the opportunities they all deserve: an excellent education.”

A week later, in the NYT “D.C. is known as the most dysfunctional and worst-performing school district in the country,”

12/8/08: "We're in Washington, D.C., in the nation's capital, and yet the children of this city receive an education that every single citizen in this country should be embarrassed by." (Time)

2/13/09 “I think that the talk about ineffective teachers is overshadowing the fact that we have thousands of teachers everyday who are going into classrooms and doing absolutely heroic things with kids.” (TV News 4)

Rhee: 3/22/09 “If we come to an impasse, we’re going to move forward with our reforms anyway,” Ms. Rhee said. “Then it potentially gets uglier.” (NY Times)

Obama: 3/26/09 "…if we don't have teacher buy-in, if they're not enthusiastic about the reforms that we're initiating, then, ultimately, they're not going to work. So we've got to have teacher participation in developing these approaches."

Rhee 5/7/09 “And he [the President] actually doesn't say anything different from what I say, which is support people, reward people who are doing a great job, and if you're not and we can't get you there, then you have to go.” (Political Daily)

5/7/09: I am very frank, very blunt. It's important to be honest with people about the situation we're in. (Political Daily)

Posted by: efavorite | May 9, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Efavorite: You have said it all! Great job! One side note: Ask the principals who were not re-appointed without the benefit of even being evaluated or the benefit of due process if she lies. Ask the teachers who were terminated(certified but probationary or temporary) if she lies!

Posted by: candycane1 | May 9, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Candycane - Thank you. Actually, there's much more, but there's only so much time in a day and only so much space that the DC Wire protocol allows. It also doesn't allow posting multiple links, but the above quotes are all easily google-able.

Thanks for pointing out additional Rhee mendacity and thanks to Political Daily for providing so much rich, new material.

Posted by: efavorite | May 9, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

News Flash: Rhee Admits Mistake - “trying to follow rules and do the right thing”

From the Politics Daily article

LK: Are there things you feel you should have been more politic about?
MR: I've made mistakes, but I don't have any regrets, because even the mistakes (helped us) move forward in a much better way.

LK: Examples?
MR: Last July, when we were close to making the teacher's union contract happen, the press reported stuff about the contract that was incorrect. We were abiding by the collective bargaining laws (and) were not allowed to talk about the negotiations. The misinformation became fact in people's minds. We're still trying to undo all of those bits of information. I was trying to follow rules and do the right thing, but it wasn't the right call.

She goes on from there to accuse Weingarten of lying, perhaps having learned that doing the right thing is the wrong thing. Great lesson for the kids.

Posted by: efavorite | May 9, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The teacher's union has been around for 50 years and never noticed that there was a problem with the education that the students were getting. Remember this is the only reason to have schools at all. The union has lived a lie for 50 years. Michelle Rhee has been around for two years. She acknowledged the problems immediately and has honestly attempted to solve them. The union is inherently and totally dishonest. Your article implies a moral equivalence where none exists.

Posted by: jy151310 | May 10, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

jy151310 - Don't be ridiculous - of course the union had noticed that there are problems with education -- everyone has. But there are some systems with strong unions that don't have problems, e.g. montgomery and fairfax counties. So you can't arbitrarily place the blame on the unions.

Rhee just wants to bust the union because it fits with her plan to have a turn-over teacher force of young teachers who leave after 2 years. This is not about educating students, it's about keeping teacher recruitment firms in business.

Posted by: efavorite | May 10, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Teacher recruitment organizations such as Teach For America and The New Teacher Project are not like headhunter firms or employment agencies that are businesses. They are non-profits that are dedicated to placing recent college grads or career changers into high poverty urban schools. They are not companies trying to make a profit. Their goal is to do their part to close the achievement gap and make a difference in children's lives. Though I do have problems with some of their ideas (their 23 year olds are better than career teachers), TFA is not in the education arena to make money.

Posted by: chelita | May 10, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Even non-profits pay their employees and the larger and more successful the non-profit the more money they need to pay their employees.

Let's hear Rhee say that she has no intention of expanding teacher recruiting organizations in order to supply "great" new teachers every two years. Somehow those teachers have to be replenished.

What does she have in mind? This is an important question. If she is successful in changing the nature of the teaching profession so that teacher turnover is much greater than it is now, she needs to inform the public how she is going to guarantee the steady flow of great teachers.

Posted by: efavorite | May 10, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Efavorite's entry is full of data, that which rhee says she analyzes. Perhaps if she looks closely at her many contradictions of herself, she will see how so many people view her: as a liar and charlatan who is using the company she founded to sustain a living -- the New Teacher Project -- to base the many endless mistakes she's making in DC for the schools. Of course it's the 'mayor' who has posted her there and only holds her accountable to him anyhow. Wow ... is that why they both travel all of the time with no accountability? And as accountability goes, how accountable does he hold himself for 'discovering' and 'appointing' her at the midnight hour?

Posted by: southyrndiva | May 11, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

And who is rhee to call ANYONE a liar? Now that she can't have her way another negotiator is needed? Wow ...

Posted by: southyrndiva | May 11, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I've got a news flash for Ms. Weingarten:

I had kids in DCPS for nearly 10 years, in Ward 3 schools where, I'm sorry, you CANNOT blame the parents for the lack of rigor in the schools. Guess what? The absolute worst teachers they had were veterans with over 15 years in the system. They were phoning it in.

Some of the best were brand new first year teachers.

I've had enough of the "lie" promulgated by the unions that veteran equals good and novice equals bad.

Posted by: trace1 | May 12, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Trace - the union has not commented on vets vs. newcomers. It's Rhee who makes a point of saying she wants to get rid of a lot of vets and replace them with inexperienced teachers whom she presumes (for no given reason) will be better.

I think good teachers come in all varieties, but I haven't heard any teachers who have said they were better in the first few years than they were after getting a little experience under their belts. That's the way it is in most jobs.

Why would it be different in teaching?

Posted by: efavorite | May 12, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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