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Going all the way... Former D.C. union chief George Parker hooks up with Michelle Rhee to continue lucrative attacks on public schools, teacher unions

When they were challenging him for the leadership of the Washington, D.C. teachers union (Local 6 of the American Federation of Teachers) union activists in the opposition were publicly dissatisfied with the concessions George Parker made to D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Parker's union contract, which eventually cost him the union presidency, was heavy on "teacher accountability", including merit pay. Especially odious, noted by many, was the fact that Rhee had purged hundreds of D.C. teachers, slandering them in the process as "bad teachers" (and in some cases, sex perverts). Throughout her brief time in D.C., Rhee's high profile media attacks on teacher unions and public schools increased in intensity.

Michelle Rhee and George Parker in 2009, at the time she was still D.C. Schools Chancellor and he was still President of Local 6 of the American Federation of Teachers.Rhee was viewed by most of the members of the Washington D.C. local of the AFT as a racist who not only fired massive numbers of African American teachers, but slandered them in the process. Like Arne Duncan, who did the same thing in Chicago under the corporate "Renaissance 2010" program and "turnarounds", Rhee was scapegoating urban teachers for the failures of capitalist society and the economy, and since most of those teachers in D.C. were and are black, after she left the D.C. position she needed some "black cover" to continue her career. George Parker has agreed to join those who are giving it to her and her operations.

Then, in a brief period of time, Rhee's sponsor, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost his re-election bid, mainly because of Rhee's corporate antics, Rhee left the school system she claimed she was devoted to — and formed a group — "Students First". With immediate backing from The Wall Street Journal and many of the wealthy individuals and groups that had touted her time in D.C., Rhee was again in the corporate school reform business, this time with claims she will raise a billion dollars to really finally and absolutely put Michelle Rhee's version of what's best for the nation's public school children in the forefront of the corporate agenda for "education reform."

But even George Parker's machinations as President of the Washington D.C. union didn't prepare his former supporters and friends for the May 20 announcement by Parker that he was hooking up with Rhee and becoming the African American ("I was a union president...") face of Rhee's version of school reform.

That surprise was brought to the public's attention in a May 21, 2011 story in The New York Times, reporting on an earlier TV appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe". Even Parker's friend — and former supporter AFT president Randi Weingarten — responded with a "...Say what??!" of sorts.

Interestingly, nobody has as year revealed what Rhee's group will pay Parker for joining Geoffrey Canada, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson Sr. among the "bi-partisan" and multi-racial supporters of the union-busting, privatizing and charterizing version of corporate school reform.

BELOW IS THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY ON PARKER JOINING RHEE: A version of this article appeared in print on May 21, 2011, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Former Foes Join Forces For Reform Of Education.,, By SAM DILLON

Michelle A. Rhee butted heads frequently during her three-year tenure as schools chancellor of Washington with the president of the local teachers’ union, George Parker, and eventually a voter backlash over the city’s school reform wars cost both of them their jobs.

Now, in a strange-bedfellows twist, Ms. Rhee has named Mr. Parker as the first senior fellow of Students First, the national group she formed after stepping down as chancellor last fall. She says she hopes Mr. Parker can be a compelling voice for change, especially in speaking to teachers’ union members around the country. He says Ms. Rhee hates teachers’ unions less than most people think.

“We had our fair share of shouting matches, but over all we get along well,” Ms. Rhee said. “I see tremendous potential in having somebody who was president of a local teachers’ union advocating on behalf of policies that other unions are fighting against bitterly.”

As a senior fellow, Mr. Parker will travel the country speaking to state legislators, teachers and union members about the need to overhaul American public schooling. Neither Ms. Rhee nor Mr. Parker would disclose the stipend he will receive for the part-time position. “I can tell you this, I’m not doing it for the money,” said Mr. Parker, who is a math teacher with 25 years of experience.

Ms. Rhee, one of the most polarizing figures in public education, resigned as chancellor after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty lost Washington’s 2010 Democratic primary, a defeat that political analysts said was, in part, fallout from the draconian school policies that Mr. Fenty and Ms. Rhee carried out from 2007 through 2010.

After Ms. Rhee announced her intention to resign, without setting a specific date, Mr. Parker said, “I think leaving sooner is better than later.”

About a month later, Mr. Parker was out too, defeated in a re-election bid by a union challenger who accused him of giving up too much to Ms. Rhee, especially in the contract the two signed in the spring of 2010. That agreement, which took two and a half years and a mediator’s help to negotiate, gave teachers a 21 percent raise over five years while weakening seniority and other job protections.

Ms. Rhee also inaugurated a new teacher evaluation system during Mr. Parker’s tenure that holds teachers accountable for student test scores and has led to the dismissal of more than 100 teachers who got poor ratings.

Weeks after her resignation, Ms. Rhee began Students First, with the ambitious goal of raising $1 billion to lobby legislatures and back political candidates. She has said that the group’s “ultimate goal is to shift the power dynamic of education in this country, which I think for far too long has been dominated by special interests, whether the teachers’ unions or textbook manufacturers.”

Ms. Rhee said this week that she had called Mr. Parker shortly after his defeat in the union election, beginning a dialogue over several months about the role of unions in changing schools.

“My mind-set has been that we’re not going to change the unions; their purpose is just to protect their members and that’s it,” Ms. Rhee said. But in their conversations, she said, Mr. Parker told her, “We in the unions have to change or we’re not going to be relevant.”

“I thought that was compelling — not that I bought into it 100 percent,” she said, speaking from her car as she drove on Thursday to Cleveland from Lansing, Mich., where she had spoken with state legislators.

Mr. Parker said he did “serious thinking” before accepting Ms. Rhee’s offer, knowing that some of his fellow union leaders would find it suspicious, but decided to join up because he believes it is important for all educators to seek common ground. “There’s not much I can do to change the minds of those who think this is some kind of a sellout,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Parker informed Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a text message on Wednesday, just moments before he and Ms. Rhee announced publicly that he would join Students First.

“I had to read the message a couple of times,” Ms. Weingarten said. “I thought it was a joke. I texted him back, ‘REALLY?’ ”

Then Ms. Weingarten watched the odd couple make their televised announcement on MSNBC’s program “Morning Joe.”

“I wish George well,” Ms. Weingarten said. “He’s a good man.”



Comments:

May 22, 2011 at 9:55 AM

By: Jean R Schwab

Same

I suspect that the "good man" George Parker was working with Rhee all along. The whole situation sounds similar to what happened to Chicago during the last years of Stewart's leadership. Who says that a "good man" or woman can't be bought. It is going to take our new leadership many years to repair the damage done by Marilyn and her supporters. Unfortunately, we don't have that much time.

I appreciate the present CTU's emphasis on organizing members and getting them involved in the fight for our Union' future.

May 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM

By: Jean Schwab

Shame

My comments should have been about shame instead of same,"George Parker, shame on you!"

May 22, 2011 at 9:17 PM

By: John Kugler

Union Membership

Is this guy still a union member?

June 17, 2011 at 6:56 AM

By: Sandrine de Lane

Parker and Rhee

Rheediculous! (like so much of what the 'good' lady says and does)

Parker's sellout move, joining Rhee, is absolutely disgusting. My jaw dropped when I saw the announcement of his partnership with Rhee.

He is feathering his financial nest and getting back at the teachers who rightly saw him for what he was (a dangerous hack) and called him on it.

Rhee gets to use him to show how "fair" her bs is, by hiring a UNION guy onto Team Rhee. It seems she also gets the added benefit of getting back at all the ungrateful teachers she so enthusiastically harrassed during her tenure as chancellor. (Well, she's used to getting union leaders to carry her water - after all, Randi Weingarten, grande dame of union sellouts, gave her everything she wanted and more.)

So now she gets this flunky Parker on her side. Talk about a finger in the eye. This is more like that (infamous) broom of hers.

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