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Rhee: 'No obligation of any kind' to funders

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told the District's Office of Campaign Finance on Friday that she gained nothing financially from the private foundations that are underwriting part of the new teachers contract, nor did she have anything to do with a provision allowing donors to reconsider their support if DCPS leadership changed hands.

Her signed declaration comes in response to an Office of Campaign Finance investigation, launched after a complaint filed by Robert V. Brannum, president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations. He is a vehement critic of Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and a supporter of Fenty's Democratic primary opponent, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. Brannum charged that Rhee contrived to protect her job by accepting the leadership clause as a condition of the private funding -- constituting a direct personal financial benefit.

"I did not obtain any financial gain from the funders' reservation of the right to reconsider their commitments if there is a material change in DCPS' leadership. I did not receive any money from the funders," she wrote. "I have no obligation of any kind to the funders ... "

Rhee raised $64.5 million from four private foundations, Broad, Walton, Robertson and Arnold, for raises and performance bonuses under the new contract. The leadership contingency is a standard part of grant agreements. But it became a political issue in the spring because of Gray's refusal to commit to retaining her if he defeats Fenty in September. In interviews last week, Rhee effectively ruled out serving under Gray.

Rhee's statement accompanies a six-page letter to OCF director Cecily Collier Montgomery from D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. "Mr. Brannum's complaint is baseless. It is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law," Nickles wrote, adding that there is no evidence of a quid pro quo between Rhee and the foundations.

"Mr. Brannum himself concedes that no payment of money is at issue here. Whether the funders would actually withdraw their commitments if Chancellor Rhee were to leave DCPS is completely speculative; the mere possibility that one or more of them might withdraw funding does not confer any financial gain or value on Chancellor Rhee," Nickles wrote.

He called on Collier-Montgomery to dismiss the complaint "with prejudice forthwith."

UPDATE 9:16 pm: Brannum's response to Rhee and Nickles: "The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance reviewed my request and made a determination to open a full investigation of Chancellor Rhee. I will await the decision from the Office of Campaign Finance."

By Bill Turque  |  July 9, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
 
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Comments

Now that Rhee and Nickels have spoken we can all sleep well tonight. LOL

Posted by: bnew100 | July 9, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Well, this won't violate the Hatch Act.
Miss Rhee will return to her roots on July 20th as she will appear and speak as a "Nationally Renowned Progressive Education Reform Advocate" on behalf of Bill Ferguson who is running for state senator in the 46th district of Maryland, which includes Baltimore City. He will probably get a endorsement from Jo-Ann and Fred as he is their type of guy.

More details at
https://billforsenate.com/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=2

If you are a city teacher, tickets only cost $50.

*VIP Reception 5:30 - 6 pm

When
July 20th, 2010 6:00 PM through 7:30 PM
Location
2601 N. Howard Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States
Contact
Phone: 4438381518
Email: karen@karenmillerconsulting.com
Ticket Prices
City Schools Teachers $ 50.00
Friends of Bill Ferguson $ 250.00
Sponsors $ 500.00
Hosts $ 1,000.00


Somehow, I don't think we will witness a second miracle, but you never know.

Posted by: edlharris | July 9, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting article. I wonder what the reaction of Mr. Brannum is to the declaration of Chancellor Michelle Rhee and to the statement of D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. Maybe Mr. Turque will follow-up and ask Mr. Brannum. Maybe.

Robert Vinson Brannum
rbrannum@robertbrannum.com

Posted by: robert158 | July 9, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for staying on top of this, Ed.

Perhaps you could fund a baltimore city teacher to show up to take notes. I know one. You could reach me at efavorite at verizon.net. I'd even split the bill with you.

And in future posts, please specify that you're referring to Jo-ann Armao and Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post editorial Board, for those not in the know.

Thanks

Posted by: efavorite | July 9, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

1. "Brannum charged that Rhee contrived to protect her job by accepting the leadership clause as a condition of the private funding -- constituting a direct personal financial benefit."

By protecting her job, Rhee DOES have a direct personal financial benefit--her salary.


2. "The leadership contingency is a standard part of grant agreements."

Really? It's standard? You mean that Rhee was FORCED to accept that clause?

3. "Whether the funders would actually withdraw their commitments if Chancellor Rhee were to leave DCPS is completely speculative; the mere possibility that one or more of them might withdraw funding does not confer any financial gain or value on Chancellor Rhee," Nickles wrote."

No, the clause gives the funders the right to walk away if Rhee is gone---thereby holding DCPS hostage to keeping Rhee. Again, see #1 above for comment.

I can't believe this circular logic that Mr. Nickles is using. Please, Voters, get rid of Fenty on election day.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | July 9, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be the fault (if you can fault someone who is donating money to your school system) of the donors and not the fault of Michelle Rhee?

Who put the contingency clause in, her or them?

I would think people might think the donors are overdoing it a bit, not her.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 9, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I have ever seen a local campaign that has been more trivial and vindictive than this year's Mayoral election.

Name calling, race baiting, investigationitis, fake outrage, personal disrespect, wild ennuendo, and sour grapes is the order of the day.

Accusation,accusation, accusation, accusation. Ridiculous. Don't you get sick of yourselves?

Posted by: politicalrealist | July 10, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

celestun,

"I would think people might think the donors are overdoing it a bit, not her."

People would...PR reps for the Gray Campaign wouldn't.

If a group of people are giving 30-40 million of their money....they are going to put some strings on it.

But, Gray's people want you to beleive that people like Bill and Melinda Gates are Fenty croneys.

Only reasonable people would think " hey, that is very very nice of them. 36 million dollars is a ton of money. Lets be grateful. And, it is reasonable that they reserve the right to change thier mind if we stop seeing eye to eye."

Posted by: politicalrealist | July 10, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Wait a minute----so if Rhee decides to move to San Diego (please, please, please), does this mean the donors will pull out?

Wouldn't it make more sense to have those "strings" attached to a way of running DCPS or a pedogogical philosophy/practice than to attach the strings to an individual?

You apologists for Rhee/Fenty never fail to amaze me.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | July 10, 2010 2:19 AM | Report abuse

I don't think I have ever seen a local campaign that has been more trivial and vindictive than this year's Mayoral election.

Name calling, race baiting, investigationitis, fake outrage, personal disrespect, wild ennuendo, and sour grapes is the order of the day.

Accusation,accusation, accusation, accusation. Ridiculous. Don't you get sick of yourselves?

Posted by: politicalrealist

*********************************

Care to provide evidence of
name calling?
race-baiting?
investigationitis(sp)?
fake outrage?
personal disrespect?
wild ennuendo(sp)?
and
sour grapes?

I'm not seeing it on this bloguey

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | July 10, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

"nor did she have anything to do with a provision allowing donors to reconsider their support if DCPS leadership changed hands."

I would have loved to hear that conversation or read the email.

Donors: This money is dependent upon you staying as chancellor.
Rhee: Why?
Donors: We don't trust anyone else
Rhee: But the reforms I've put into place will outlast me. I'm not Superman, but I have built a foundation that will last a long time.
Donors: That may be, but your our guy. We trust you.
Rhee: But think of the kids.
Donors: No.
Rhee: Oh well, I'm sure if I leave by the time people notice, they'll blame someone else. Fred Hiatt and Jo-Ann Armao got my back.
They'll cover for me.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | July 10, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

When, when, when will the reporters on this paper actually do some investigative journalism? Or is that a thing of the past?
Michelle Rhee is on the board of directors for Eli Broad - is that not a conflict of interest given the contract negotiation involving the Broad Foundation? She is also on the board of directors and often lectures at the Aspen Institute. The Aspen Institute has a web of connections that looks like 2 degrees of separation - some of its members are on your editorial board. How about one of those weeklong articles that examines the people involved in these organizations, their educational philosophy, the ramifications of their influence on public education and the way in which they are scratching each others backs. Seems to me the people benefiting most from reform belong to these organizations.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | July 10, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Philly Marlowe -- You strike out, again!

And, do you live in the District?

Posted by: axolotl | July 10, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Philly Marlowe -- You strike out, again!

And, do you live in the District?

Posted by: axolotl | July 10, 2010 3:30 PM
**********

Philly
strike out

Very witty, but no Oscar Wilde.

Why this obsession with where people live?

I'm not telling.
I'm happily married,
so,
you strike out.
Again

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | July 10, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Rhee's Fortunes:

From Chancellor Rhee’s signed declaration: "I did not obtain any financial gain from the funders' reservation of the right to reconsider their commitments if there is a material change in DCPS' leadership. I did not receive any money from the funders…"

Her carefully crafted legal language reminds me of Bill Clinton's, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Their statements are true, but certainly not forthcoming.

The Chancellor need not receive direct financial compensation from these private foundations in order to realize significant personal profit. Of course, job security is one form of economic benefit, but this will pale in comparison to the opportunities she will have after leaving DCPS.

She has supported many policies that these foundations clearly find are aligned with their own educational philosophy, including increasing privatization of pubic schools and reducing (or eliminating) the effectiveness of labor unions.

Rhee herself claims she is creating a national blueprint for urban school reform. Her advocacy for many initiatives, such as her latest decision to significantly increase standardized testing, will create greater opportunities for corporate education and service providers that have very close ties to these foundations. Rhee also serves on the Board of Directors of the Broad Center (funded by the Broad Foundation; a funder of the WTA labor contract), which has many other business leaders who support the privatization of education.

Michelle A. Rhee, like many high profile public servants who have cultivated a populist agenda, is now poised to make the short and hugely profitable step to the private sector. Rhee is far more popular nationally than in the local DC community, so she will continue to be important to the message machine and lobbying efforts of corporate education interests here in Washington.

However, unlike many retired politicians and staff who become influence brokers that disappear, but still roam the corridors of the Capitol; Rhee’s out-front nature will be most welcome to the for-profit education and service industry. As the face of education reform, Rhee will also become the lightning rod that insulates such companies from the heat generated by public debate over controversial proposals.

Michelle A. Rhee is no Sarah Palin, but there are frightening similarities. Rhee is less well known, but she is no less cunning in framing populist debate; and she is smarter. They are both true believers (mostly in themselves), and no matter how much history and science argue against them, they will take their simplistic populist case to the people with intoxicating confidence.

Already the most highly paid employee in local Washington government (including the mayor); it is not unreasonable to expect that Rhee’s financial fortunes will skyrocket after leaving DCPS. Someday, she might even be compared to the former half-Governor of Alaska in Forbes magazine.

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 11, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post Company's Growing Interest in For-Profit Education:

One of the worlds most prominent corporate education companies is Kaplan, the Washington Post Company’s vast education services division. This year, Kaplan has formed Kaplan VC LLC, a venture capital subsidiary that will invest in companies and technologies it believes can advance the business of education.

About Kaplan VC, CEO Jim Rosenthal, (CEO) said, “The new unit signifies the importance we place on outside entrepreneurs and the kind of innovative work that will help improve the educational experience for students of all ages at all levels.”

Follow the Money.

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 11, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Philly,
Ball 1. I can only respect your desire not to disclose, but that only let's us infer you live outside the District. You are, of course, entitled to comment on anything in the Nation's Capital. But your bona fides on DCPS matters is a little diminished, but still chock full of substantive views, regardless of whether they agree with mine. Have a nice day.

Posted by: axolotl | July 11, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

AGAAIA,
Well done. You join the ranks of another well known commenter here whose thoughts are centered on a vast conspiracy of big-business interests try to crush DC public education because this is such an obvious easy goldmine of revenue and profit to plunder. Oh, yesirree. Makes great sense.

This line of attack is one of the saddest forms of denial to explain why DC schools are the way they are. Look inward. Look at The Children, their communities, the quality of teachers, the history of negligent governance. And don't forget us voters and citizen/taxpayers. We voted for the incompetent boards of ed and the council and all the mayors since the seventies.

BTW, do u live in the District?


You can hardly blame the situation on the Post or testing companies or Wendy Kopp. That is a hoot.

Posted by: axolotl | July 11, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Axolotl, I don't think anyone is blaming DCPS's condition or how they got there on a vast conspiracy by for-profit education companies. What they are saying is that these companies are forming left and right, like vultures circling round the dying corpse, to profit from the situation. Since NCLB was passed the number of for-profit educational firms has increased tenfold - much like the new Kaplan Ventures LLC (of course they are forming an LLC after all Rhee is opening the door for them to flood the district with their "services"). It would be one thing if there were real gains but there aren't - there is only Rhee claiming gains. When you look closely at what she has said she has done these gains do not look so hot. But the claims are enough to keep her and her cronies running the show and profiting from the misery that is our public school system in DC.

DCPS needs the kinds of gains and improvements that have substance to them - not just the hollow claims of politicians. This test-crazed culture that Rhee is about to shove down our throats will do very little to create a true learning culture which is what is truly needed in our schools. Testing cannot produce a learning culture, a culture of dialog, of the kind of give and take that is necessary to help bring about critically thinking children. Unless what is really wanted are automatons who can do nothing but push buttons.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | July 11, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

AGAAIA,
BTW, do u live in the District?
Posted by: axolotl | July 11, 2010 8:41 AM

********

So, now one can be guaranteed that if they post something axototl doesn't like, axototl will hit on them.
IS Bill Turque hosting a dating service here?

I'm not telling where I live axototl, though it is not "Ward 9" nor Ward 57 (I am not that honorable).

But I pay taxes that support DCPS.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | July 11, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

politicalrealist
It is "nice of them" to give the money. But I do wonder about whether this reform is actually reform. It seems like a lot of testing to me.

I would feel better about their influence if they had respected teachers and included some educators in their decision making. So far, I see a lot of shaking up and starting over and testing going on.

It seems a little misguided to me.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 11, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Broad, Gates, Walton etc. all promote for-profit education and testing as provided by the Washington Post's Kaplan. Having worked for Kaplan Higher Ed., I can tell you without reservation that it is a diploma mill set up to efficiently collect their students’ education benefits while providing the barest semblance of an education (actually training). The Post’s involvement with this topic is unethical; as are Rhee’s actions in tying this corporate foundation funding to her tenure, and the corporations’ use of tax-exempt foundations to promote their political views (and corporate profits), thinly disguised as “education reform.”

Posted by: mcstowy | July 12, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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