SUBSCRIPT: Teacher bashing courtesy of The Washington Post... Shades of Paul Vallas, Michelle Rhee libels Washington, D.C. teachers by pointing out her own viciousness

On Saturday, January 23, 2010, the Washington Post ran a story in which Washington, D.C. schools Chancellore, Michelle Rhee, said that some laid off D.C. teachers had been having sex with kids, or physically abused them. The Post attributed Rhee's comments to an interview she had given to a magazine.

The story reminded me of the first year Paul Vallas was "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's Public Schools, 1996, one year after mayoral control had begun and the great myth of the "Daley school reform miracle" was still in the first throes of creation — with the help of Chicago's corporate media and some of the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union's United Progressive Caucus (UPC).

Vallas had been invited to a meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates by Tom Reece, then CTU president. I was delegate from Bowen High School. The Board of Education, on Daley's orders, had recently abolished truant officers and was trying to get the job of attendance collection done by "parent volunteers." So I took the floor of the House meeting to ask Vallas (who had been introduced as our "friend" by Reece) whether he was going to put truant officers back to work.

"Some of those truant officers were drunks, you know," Vallas began his answer, which amounted to "No. The mayor doesn't want them any more." Later, others caught Vallas whispering similar slanders against teachers at Jones Commercial High School, which Daley ordered Vallas to close so Daley could make it a college prep high school for residents of his new neighborhood (now, "Museum Campus" and similar real estate projects near the lake). Vallas told an audience at Taft High School at one point that the teachers he made sure didn't remain at the "new" Jones were the kinds of teachers nobody wanted near them. Teachers called Vallas out, and he simply moved on to another slander in another venue. No matter how corrupt Vallas has been, and how many lies he has told, his media image continues to be tended by the top ranks in corporate America.

That kind of slander is standard for corporate "school reform." You can hear it from New York's Joel Klein down through New Orleans, where Vallas is still doing his "reform" stint, out to places west where mayoral control is the name of the game. Michaelle Rhee, however, is in a class by herself when it comes to teacher bashing. And she's already made the cover of TIME magazine to push her teacher bashing and union busting party line.

For some reason, the "business magazine" that got the quote and The Washington Post, which just took the teacher bashing national, asked Rhee why she didn't fire and prosecute the alleged "abusers" when she learned about them. Of course, the corporate answer to that is that the process of getting rid of "bad teachers" takes too long and costs too much.

The following story appeared in The Washington Post on January 23, 2010.

Rhee says laid-off teachers in D.C. abused kids, By Bill Turque Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, January 23, 2010

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told a national business magazine that some of the 266 teachers laid off in October's budget reductions had sex with children or had hit them, a claim immediately and angrily challenged Friday by leaders of the Washington Teachers Union.

Rhee's comments appear in the February issue of Fast Company, a magazine aimed at young entrepreneurs and change-minded corporate executives. In a brief item, Rhee addressed the union allegation that she contrived the budget crunch to circumvent seniority rules and rid the system of older teachers.

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" she said.

Rhee declined to provide specific numbers Friday or details to substantiate her remarks about sexual misconduct and teachers striking students. Neither did she respond when asked by e-mail why such teachers were allowed to remain in the school system before the Oct. 2 job cuts. D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said late Friday that she was researching the matter.

"I cannot comment at this time," she said.

George Parker, president of the teachers union, called Rhee's statements "reckless" and without basis in fact. The union usually receives notice from the District when a teacher faces disciplinary action, Parker said, and he has received no information that any of the 266 had been under investigation for sexual offenses against children. One of the 266 faced action for administering corporal punishment, he said.

"This paints all teachers as being a group of child molesters who assault children and don't come to work," Parker said. "It damages the reputation of a lot of innocent, hardworking, dedicated teachers."

Rhee said she had made similar statements in other venues, including her stormy Oct. 29 appearance before the D.C. Council. Rhee's sworn testimony then did not mention teachers having sex with students. When council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) asked whether she would fight any attempt to reinstate the 266 teachers, Rhee said she would.

"There were some promising or effective people who were [laid off], but there were also some people who, quite frankly, if you saw what was in their file and what their situations have been in this city, you would be shocked," Rhee said. "Just to give a little sampling of this, six of the [laid off] employees had served suspensions for corporal punishment. One was suspended four times, three times for being AWOL."

As Brown attempted to cut her off, she added: "For you to say, 'Would I fight all 266 people coming back into the system,' I would, because a number of these people are not people that you or I would want to put in their classroom."

Word of Rhee's comments to Fast Company rippled through the teaching ranks, with some expressing outrage.

The union's general vice president, Nathan Saunders, said Rhee owes the city's teacher corps an apology.

"The statements are not only an affront to every single teacher that was [laid off] but every single teacher currently employed in D.C. public schools," Saunders said. "It's irresponsible, and she needs to be taken to task for it."

Other union activists said they were especially offended by Rhee's remarks, in light of the recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by her fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Before Johnson's 2008 election, the inspector general for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service filed a criminal referral with the U.S. attorney in Sacramento about Johnson. It included allegations that Johnson had inappropriately touched a minor girl and climbed into bed with a teenager who worked for the charter school he founded. The school received funding from Americorps, which is part of the community service corporation.

Johnson was not charged.

"I'm ready to recommend that Chancellor Rhee submit for a fitness for duty examination because these are the rants of either a mad or very confused woman," Candi Peterson, a teacher and member of the union's board of trustees, said on the Washington Teacher blog. 


January 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM

By: Natturner

Rhee Part of a System of Internal Colonialism

Looks like Ms. Rhee has gone over the edge. A mind is a terrible thing to lose. She's been irrelevant for some time now but her powerful sponsors (Gates, Broad, Bloomberg) have been keeping Michelle around to save themselves the embarrassment of admitting failure and to give Adrian Fenty the best possible shot at re-election. But the cost of that is obviously going to be a sad kind of freak show starring an unhinged Chancellor Rhee until the election.

On a more serious note in this season for remembering an American hero and in light of yesterday's report that unemployment in the District has hit historic levels. In the last months of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King began telling listeners that the inner city was a "system of internal colonialism." "The purpose of the slum," King said in a speech at the Chicago Freedom Festival, "is to confine those who have no power and perpetuate their powerlessness. ... The slum is little more than a domestic colony which leaves its inhabitants dominated politically, exploited economically, segregated and humiliated at every turn." Fenty and Rhee are in place to do the work of the colonial masters and so the humiliation of teachers should come as no surprise.

But as Dr. King said, there's a Rhee-free "Promised Land" waiting out there for us when we finally decide to fight.

January 25, 2010 at 12:25 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Video every unhinged moment or they cover up the screwups

Nat, you're right.

But unless people video every unhinged moment, the lucrative machines that operate reality TV will continue to cover up all the craziness there. From that boyfriend (and that trail of tears he leaves in his randy wake) to her teacher bashing rantings.

We've covered Richard M. Daley for years. My bet is he's in early onset dementia, and he was never the brightest bulb on the tree to begin with. The trick at an RMD press conference is to get him off script and get him going. He'll run on for pages without punctuation (actually, he was capable of this when I interviewed him in 1983, but that's another story) making up "facts" as he goes along --

And you won't see one second of it on the evening news. Ever. Unless we get the tape, it dies because of the cover up.

I could give numerous Daley examples, but basically that's the reason we're going to have to sue City Hall to get our mayor's daily media schedule -- even though we're one of the most active and factual news services in "his" town.

Irony, too. Both Rhee and Daley -- in their madness -- have been on the cover of TIME. Which should tell anyone all they need to know about corporate media as corporate propaganda.

January 29, 2010 at 5:46 PM

By: Kathleen Cantone

Teacher Bashing, Vallas-style

I was one of the 100 or so playground teachers who was laid off after Paul Vallas closed our after-school program- one which ran for decades at a number of schools around the city. Not long after this happened, I heard Mr. Vallas describe us on WBEZ as a bunch of teachers who couldn't cut the mustard. The irony in this statement was that those of us who chose not retire or resign were all placed in teaching positions in CPS. I only wish I had called the station to challenge him! The real reason we were laid off is our program lost its funding source.

January 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM

By: zeta

Teacher Bashing

It's interesting to note that these corporate men/ women or others who have never taught school and frankly wouldn't last 5 minutes in a class full of second graders in the hood, have the nerve to make comments about teachers.

Also, these people are basically cowards and liars leaving the hard work for teachers to do while they sit around and pass judgement.

To the heroes that decided to do the real, work of trying to educate students who have a multitude of issues caused by those who make policy decisions, Thank You.

To the zeroes that run their mouths while cooped up in their offices crunching numbers and being afraid of children,...., YOU

Fill in the blanks please!

January 30, 2010 at 9:39 AM

By: bob


Chesty Puller was a real marine. He commanded everything from a platoon to

At least a regiment. He fought in the Banana wars, WW1, WW2, and landed at Inchon

in Korea. During Viet Nan he was shelved .In the Second World War he attended

A demonstration of a flame thrower .The salesman pitched this most horrible weapon

then asked Chesty for his endorsement, to which he replied” where do you put the


Zeta hit the nail on the head:” They wouldn’t last five minutes in a second grade in

The hood”. Those of us who are teaching in South Side General High schools can

Identify with both Chesty and Zeta.

We carry a perverted idea of reality which very few can claim. How many people have watched kids bleed to death? Who has put their fingers into the bullet holes in a kids clothes as

He goes into shock because that bullet which tore through his pant leg missed

Him ,but got his friend? Few people have had to sit through endless Power Point

Presentations on how the talking heads will solve all our problems if we just

Buy their programs. Personally I am glade everyone else doesn’t have to experience

What we do every day. We are perhaps one in a hundred thousand who put

Ourselves in harms way. How can we expect society to understand? It is so much

Easier to ignore the situation sell a phony solution. I’ll bet Chesty could solve the

Gang problem.

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