It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Does Gray win in DC signify a "C" or "D" for Fenty/Rhee?

District of Columbia City Council head Vincent Gray soundly defeated Washington, DC mayor Adrian Fenty in September 14, 2010's primary.

To our headline's question, "Atlantic Monthly's" Natalie Hopkinson (a former Washington, DC "PTA mom") would answer, "YES!"

Hopkinson noted that Rhee politicized her fate earlier this year:
Rhee brazenly politicized her job as Schools Chancellor in a way that may be unprecedented for education bureaucrats. Back in the spring, the charitable arm of Wal-Mart and other corporate foundations threatened to yank millions they had donated to break the teacher's union if Rhee was not retained. Then Rhee not so subtly hinted to a reporter that she would not work for Gray. Finally, the weekend before the election, Rhee hit the campaign trail along with Fenty to round up votes in the wealthiest ward in Washington.

Voters' reactions? Hopkinson would say that Rhee was definitely a negative factor in their voting choice in the primary election:
A majority of black voters cited Rhee as a reason to fire her boss, while a majority of white voters cited Rhee as a reason to vote for Fenty. But the stink swirling around education reform in D.C. goes beyond race. The hundreds of millions of corporate dollars used to break the D.C. teachers' union have dangerous strings attached.

**The News Details**
Early news reports indicated Fenty's loss as stemming from voter anger with combative schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and a perception that Fenty cared more about the white, upscale Northwest Washington, D.C. neighborhoods than about the less advantaged parts of the city. The last paragraph of "The Wall Street Journal" analyzed preliminary reports of voting patters and has interpreted Gray as getting stronger support in the lower income, mostly African-American areas and Fenty as getting stronger support in Georgetown and Northwestern city neighborhoods.

It remains to be seen what this will all mean for chancellor Rhee. The media have reported that Gray will not announce the fate of Rhee's job until after the general election.

There has been the assertion by one commenter that Gray supports charter schools. But most of the news headlines don't seem to give that indication.

Hopkinson's description of Rhee's effect on students in Washington sounds a lot like the haphazard experimentation and constantly shifting policy in New York City under Joel Klein:
D.C.'s high-profile status as nation's capital means that for decades, our kids have been the subjects of virtually every passing education fad and experiment--like lab rats. But usually the meddling comes from Congress. D.C. is the only city where Congress pays private school tuition. About 40 percent of public school kids go to charter schools, also thanks to Congress. All of this "experimentation" and "competition" has destabilized the system so badly that the most competent D.C. school administrators rarely know how many kids are enrolled in public or charter schools on a given day.

Hopkinson said it best toward the end of her article, "How 'public' is it when Wal-Mart can blackmail D.C. voters?"

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