In another infamous incident, Rhee told an audience of young teachers that when she was a teacher, she controlled her restless class by putting duct tape on their mouths; when the tape came off, their lips were bleeding. Apparently, the audience found that act of child abuse very funny.
Today Rhee is a national figure. Her organization claims to have a million members, though I hear that anyone who goes to her website is automatically registered as a member. StudentsFirst sends out deceptive email solicitations—I received one myself—asking the recipient if you want to see a great teacher in every classroom. Rhee's name does not appear anywhere on the email. If you answer yes, you are registered as a "member" of StudentsFirst. I don't understand this kind of deceptive marketing on behalf of someone who claims to be concerned about education.
Her organization allegedly has raised more than $200 million and is well on its way to raising $1 billion. This money will be used to attack teachers' unions; to strip teachers of any job protections; to promote vouchers, charters, and for-profit organizations that manage charter schools; and to fund candidates who want to reduce spending on public education and privatize it. I have heard rumors about big-name donors to Rhee, but can't verify them. StudentsFirst does not release the names of its contributors.
Let me add that I find offensive the very concept of "StudentsFirst." The basic idea is that teachers are selfish and greedy and do not have the interests of students at heart. So students need a champion to protect them against their venal teachers, and Rhee is that champion. Supposedly, Rhee and her allies—assorted billionaires, big corporations, wealthy foundations, and rightwing governors—are the only people who can be trusted to care about our nation's children. A New York City writer, Gail Robinson, recently challenged Rhee's claim to be above self-interest after Rhee announced that she was bringing her campaign to New York City.