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Linking Michelle Rhee with Wisconsin

Richard D. Kahlenberg, author of “Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy,” wrote an interesting opinion piece in yesterday’s Washington Post linking the union-bashing by Democrats to the current situation in Wisconsin.  He also argues that collective bargaining needs to be further expanded so teachers can have a voice on a range of important educational questions that face the public school system.

Since resigning as chancellor last year, Rhee has launched a new organizationStudentsFirst, with the express goal of raising $1 billion to counter teachers unions. Her approach remains confrontational. In a profound sense, Democrats like Michelle Rhee have paved the way for Scott Walker.

But Rhee couldn’t have done it alone. Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate as a “wonderful new superintendent” and later applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. (The teachers were later rehired.) Rhee’s agenda also received a big boost from liberal movie director Davis Guggenheim, whose film, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ “ implies that teachers unions are to blame for the failures of urban education and that non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for themselves – more resources devoted to education, smaller class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the classroom – are also good for kids.