The Daily Pulse:

The New Republic Goes Long on StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee in Tennessee

If you're interested in so-called "education reform" and all the cash Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's ex-wife Michelle Rhee is throwing around the state, you need to read this new story in The New Republic. One of the big takeaways?

"They've become like the gun lobby in Tennessee," a former aide to a top Nashville politician told me. "Everybody is scared of the NRA. It's the same way with these education reform people." 

Which is to say, even though all the bills on Rhee's fantasy legislative wish list -- private school vouchers, a stronger parent-trigger law, and a statewide charter school authorizer -- failed, they'll be back. Even if it might be more reasonable to slow down.

Several state legislators have made the same complaint, that schools have barely had a chance to implement the new curricula and test-based teacher evaluation systems that were signed into law two years ago. "We need to give public schools time to improve, and not just give up on them for things like charter schools, vouchers, and virtual schools," says House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. In other districts, including Rhee's D.C., this kind of pressure on teachers and administrators has led to mounting reports of test-score fraud.

"It's disconcerting, and troubling," says Fitzhugh's colleague Joe Pitts, who sits on the House education committee but did not receive any money from Rhee. "It seems like everybody's got an idea and they find Tennessee very fertile ground." ...

Rhee is not backing down. StudentsFirst Tennessee director Brent Easley told the Associated Press that the group would help retool the parent-trigger bill over the summer. I asked Easley earlier this year if StudentsFirst might consider giving Tennessee some time to digest all the recent reform. "Our opinion is to keep the pedal to the floor," he replied, and repeated a classic Rhee koan: "There are those who want to wait and those who don't have the luxury to wait."

Got that? We don't have the luxury to wait, because -- well, never mind that. Who needs to take time to think about things when you've got a great idea?


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