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OP-ED | Why Is Michelle Rhee Trying To Buy Elections?

by | Oct 4, 2012 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion

Education reform was the major issue of the last legislative session. It took months of discussion among all stakeholders to ensure the legislation we passed would improve education for all children in Connecticut, not just a select few.

You know who wasn’t at the table for that discussion? Michelle Rhee. Two months into the legislative session, Rhee showed up with her anti-teacher organization, Students First, calling for reforms that have been found to be deeply flawed. When it became apparent that no one was interested in her faulty ideas, Rhee quickly formed a front group called Great New England Public Schools Alliance (GNEPSA) which spent over $800,000 trying to pass education reforms no one wanted.

Rhee lost but she didn’t go away. During the August democratic primary for the 19th State Senate seat, GNEPSA pumped more than $42,000 into independent expenditures in support of Tom Reynolds’ campaign against union president Cathy Osten.

Reynolds immediately responded: “I want to be clear that my campaign and I never sought this group’s endorsement or support, and we do not condone their agenda or tactics. It is outrageous that my campaign is being used by special interests and big money that seek to influence the outcome of elections, a continuation of a disturbing trend we are witnessing nationwide. The efforts of these groups undermine the integrity of our elections and our political process.”

In the October 2 democratic runoff election for the 5th State Representative seat, GNEPSA again poured more than $42,000 in independent expenditures in support of Brandon McGee’s campaign against, you guessed it, union vice president Leo Canty.

Rhee has been raising hundreds of millions of dollars from right wing billionaires, foundations and corporations to buy elections across America. All so she can further her agenda to privatize public education.

Here in Connecticut, candidates in both races were participating in the state’s Citizens’ Election Program, which is supposed to free candidates from being beholden to special interest groups like Students First/GNEPSA. But people like Michelle Rhee, who are determined to buy influence, will always find a way, unless the people stand up and say no.

Eric Bailey is the Communications Director for AFT Connecticut, a union of more than 28,000 women and men working in the areas of PreK-12 education, paraprofessional and school related personnel, higher education, healthcare and municipal and state government.

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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 4, 2012  10:02am


Since you are in charge of AFT messaging Eric let’s look at the message you got out over the last 3 years.

THe AFT will lobby against nearly $300 million in Federal Race to the Top Funding and expect local taxpayers to pick up the tab.

My reading of the message is you have too much clout and RICO charges are called for.

Did I miss something in your monpolistic anti-choice messaging?

Romney is calling for limits on your organizations political interference and vote buying and influence peddling.

Are taxpayers missing the message that the AFT wants to be criminalized? Why could that be?

Even Governor Moonbeam has had enough. $18 million from the AFT affiliate to defeat Prop 32 which would make the political activity of the NEA/AFT affiliates all but illegal in CA after next month?A Proposal to neuter the public sector unions in Progressive California?


posted by: MissC | October 4, 2012  10:32am

I would have liked to have heard McGee make the same kind of statement that Reynolds did.

posted by: brutus2011 | October 4, 2012  2:12pm


Let me state first that I am not in favor of Rhee or her philosophy of education or for privatizing public education.

Having said that, I must state that those education managers who have been administering public education have become despotic and virtually corrupt in discharging their public trust.
Best example is New Haven. The incumbent mayor is been in office 19 years. This mayor appoints the BOE and the superintendent of schools. He runs the public school district in New Haven.
Research has proven that New Haven has the worst student expenditure to student achievement ratio in the entire state of Ct.
The answer for this shameful state of affairs is due to mismanagement of public funds for New Haven’s future generations.
If you have a different answer, then I invite your response (only please don’t blame teachers—that is an error in fact).
For proof, go to the City of New Haven’s website and download the budget. Then you will have to go to NHPS website to view the school’s budget. (In years past, you only had to see the city budget to see the school’s budget)

The key is to view the amount of money spent on administration, consultants, and private firm contracts.
In addition, one should endeavor to read the NHPS administrator union contract—talk about stacking the deck. You could also view the NHFT contract to see the stark differences in how the managers and the “workers” are viewed.

Michelle Rhee and her fellow public education privatizers are attacking because our school’s management is corrupt and negligent in the discharge of their public trust.

If we citizens want to halt this dangerous slide in possible tyranny, we need to get out and vote to ensure that the corrupt administrators of many, not all, of our school districts are relieved of their duties.

posted by: Linda12 | October 4, 2012  6:28pm

Rhee’s fraud of an organization has nothing to do with students, teaching or learning. It is a political lobbyist group that secretly slithers around the nation passing out billionaire donated cash to influence and bribe politicians. Her dirty donations push the privatization, anti-union, anti-public school, collective bargaining busting, teacher trashing dogma down their throats. Here she is a pariah and getting her money is the kiss of death. You will either lose or you owe her; she is now your master and you belong to her. We will be watching McGee…she wants her money’s worth.

posted by: Tom Burns | October 5, 2012  12:13am

Thanks Eric—Michelle Rhee certainly isnt wanted or accepted in CT—the land of great minds and intelligence—-her PYRAMID scheme to enrich and embellish herself is seen for what it is—-can someone tell her to get a real job and go back into teaching where she failed in the past and where she fears the challenge—Its so easy to be in charge of something you know nothing of—lets ask her to prove herself first by teaching for 5 years in the inner city—what gall she has!!!to even comment on education when she has never produced on the ground floor——maybe I should be a bank president—cause I have a savings account—what say??? Tom

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 5, 2012  12:05pm

First it should be understood that Mr. Bailey has no responsibility for the education of students or their educational outcome.  His is paid to “communicate” the position of the union.  Mr. Bailey’s interest is and should be the advancement of the union and that is the representation of teachers to get them the highest wages, best benefits, best working conditions, best employment contracts and job protection.  Did I say anything about students?  No!  Students are not his responsibility.  Saying anything to the contrary is misleading at best.  So with that said you need to accept the article as a person that benefits from the current status quo and who would and should see change as haring his interests.  That is his job.

@Brutus2011, please provide some analysis.  I can tell you in Windsor we are spending $~15K to over $21K per student per year depending on how you want to do the math.  The pupil headcount has dropped over the past decade from 4,467 (‘01-‘02) to the current estimate of 3,487 (‘11-‘12) a decline of 22%.  The budget has risen in the same period from $43MM to $62MM an increase of 44%.  The per pupil cost has grown from $9,626 to $17,780 or an 85% increase.  To put this into perspective, the inflationary adjustment for per pupil costs went from $9,626 to $12,327 during the same period. [http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm]  These are facts in black and white, and I am sure they would apply in most if not all districts in CT.

The real issue is parental choice.  Parents especially in the inner city need to have a choice.  The idea that a “public education is the ost important thing is acvceptable if you also say the quality and success of the students does nto atter.  Then I can understand the opposition to school choice.

As the liberals always say follow the money.  Where does all the money in education go?  Adminstrators, and teachers.’

@Linda the same comments can be made of the unions.

posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 5, 2012  2:16pm

Michelle Rhee is trying to buy elections because there is a lot of money in it for her and other educational grifters. Thankfully citizens are beginning to catch on and the state of Connecticut is one of the first to do so.

I will give her credit for one thing though: We must put students first. At the present time there are teachers who desert their students after two or three years in the classroom and parents who turn over the care of their own children to others. We need to do better.

posted by: Linda12 | October 5, 2012  8:32pm

To misinformed in windsor…you are in for a big shock…do you what to know where all the money is going? Not to students and not to the front line workers….testing, testing, testing, consultants, educrats, tech support for grading the tests, common core crap, data management systems, bloated administrators including the SDE, coaches, etc.. 

Ever notice how there is no money for the “failing” city schools but then millions pour in once it becomes a charter. Wake up and stop blaming the teachers. This is the Race to the Trough and your tax money is being pilfered by Philanthropimps and self- appointed know nothing eduvultures.  Keep blaming the teachers because that is what they want you to believe while they stab us in the back and slither away with your money.

You won’t have any more stuff or be any happier once you destroy our profession, steal our dignity and ruin the middle class. 

Hope you feel better!

posted by: RE-Windsor, CT | October 7, 2012  12:39pm

@Linda12:  Please point out exactly where I said it is the teachers fault?  Where exactly in my review of the economics I said it was due to bad teachers.  The only place I mentioned teachers was “Where does all the money in education go?, Administrators, and teachers.”

Your retort relative to testing, etc. indicates you have no understanding of educational budgets.  In Windsor ~80% of the budget is spent on Salaries and Benefits, that means people who receive a paycheck, but it is difficult to say that is the total expense.  The School budget is 60.2MM, ~5% is instructional services that has multiple management and development headings.  We have >5% for Special Education and <5% for buildings and maintenance, and <5% for transportation, the rest is miscellaneous items. 

I take the position that a parent especially in failing districts MUST HAVE A CHOICE.  That is “parental choice”.

It is important to also know what benefits each person at the table will get with or without Parental Choice.  This is called follow the money:
The assertion that Michelle Rhee will profit is unfounded as far a s I know, vague financial comments only incite some for nefarious reasons.  She is not at the table opening charter schools so not sure where she MAKES money at this.  But, if she is going to make money at this please tell us all so we are all better educated.
The union is opposed to parental choice for a FEAR of losing teacher jobs, and that in turn means less in dues where their money is and political clout. 
The Taxpayers want a great product at a reasonable price. 
Teachers and administrators of course want to keep their respective jobs and paychecks. 
Parents want to make sure their kids get the best possible education.

Parental Choice gives the poor mom or dad an opportunity to improve the next generation’s lot in life.  Education is the great equalizer!

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