The move is intended to bring "the reputation of the group back to a non-partisan place after being seen, undeservedly, as overly friendly with Republicans," the source said. "Students First has strong relationships with many Democratic establishment hands including [former White House Communications Director] Anita Dunn.. and has worked with Democratic and Republican officials on a number of issues. But because some of the more prominent work has been with Republican governors including scoring some stunning successes in unlikely states like Nevada, that partisan reputation has been thrust upon it," the source said.
It's also, a more skeptical Democrat said, a sign of the damage that's been done to her image since she left her post in Washington after last year's mayoral election.
Folks are right to be skeptical, as the Washington Post lists Rhee's recent partisan anti-teacher activities
She is an unpaid adviser to the anti-union Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has never met a voucher or a charter school he doesn't like. If Scott had his way, he would proceed with a program that would provide vouchers to every public school family in the state and allow them to use it at whatever school they wished. Such a scheme would decimate the public school system. (No, I'm not arguing that public education doesn't need big changes, so please don't tell me I am.)
Rhee is also allied with former Republican governor Jeb Bush, who has been a leader in corporate-driven education reform in Florida and the nation.
She played a role in persuading lawmakers in Tennessee (where her ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, is the new commissioner of education) to pass an anti-union bill that, among other things, eliminates collective bargaining for teachers. She co-authored an April op-ed in the Tennessean supporting the legislation with former Republican Sen. Bill Frist. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) recently signed the bill into law.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, you will remember, pushed a budget that cut state worker pay, eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees, and contained other measures to weaken unions. Massive protests followed. Rhee went on Fox News to support the plan to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Take a look at the video here.
And here's another video of Rhee, on a local news channel, talking about why it is important that teachers not have some collective bargaining rights.
Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through SB 5 -- a bill expected to face a ballot referendum -; that severely limits collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers, and StudentsFirst was there to lobby on behalf of the bill.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie made overtures to Rhee about serving as the state education commissioner, but she didn't want to be constrained by a job that kept her in just one state. She has, though, expressed support for his budget-cutting policies.
Rhee joined forces with Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who pushed through the most extensive school voucher bill in the country. The law will provide public money for low- and middle-income families to help pay tuition at any private school. Here you can see Rhee attending a rally in support of the legislation.
Is it just me, or does it strike you as odd that a former public school chancellor supposedly dedicated to public education wants to use public money for private education?
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval recently met with Rhee and said she supports his education policies, including a teacher quality bill that among other things supports vouchers for private schools and would eliminate teacher tenure.
Meanwhile, Rhee was nominated for the Public's Servant award by the Sam Adams Alliance. The other two nominees were Wisconsin's Walker and super conservative Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Alas, she didn't win. Cuccinelli did, for "challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care law."
And the strongly conservative American Federation for Children -- which focuses on promoting school vouchers -- hosted a policy summit in Washington in March, where they gave awards to Michelle Rhee, Scott Walker and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.
Well, you can say this for Rhee: She's been mighty busy.