Michelle Rhee to Raise $1 Billion for School Reform

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December 6, 2010; Source: Christian Science Monitor | Former Washington, D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday morning that she would be spearheading a new organization, Students First, to push her education reform priorities.

Often at odds with teachers’ unions, Rhee promises not to shy away from conflict in her new role. In a Newsweek article released Monday, Rhee says that “the rationale for the decisions [in school districts] mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children.” And she says of teachers’ unions, “I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.”

Rhee stepped down from her post as chancellor in October after former Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his primary battle. His loss was attributable at least in part to the education policy advocated by Rhee.

Rhee promises to be a major player in national school reform policy debates. According to the Christian Science Monitor Rhee’s goal for the group in the first year is to garner 1 million members and raise $1 billion, “a large sum of money that could be spent backing reform-minded candidates and policy changes around the country.”

Of her sometimes-controversial approach, Andrew Rotherham, cofounder and partner at Bellwether Education, and author of the Eduwonk blog says, “She’s a charismatic, high-profile national leader . . . And she’s unafraid to break a lot of china.” Time for Krazy Glue? Only time will tell if Rhee, as nonprofit leader, will have any more success than she did as chancellor.—Aaron Lester