Many educators and parents have expressed concerns about Eva Moskowitz or Michelle Rhee becoming Secretary of Education. Moskowitz has declined the post, but Ivanka Trump visited her charter school, and some fear she is still being courted. They seem to value her input.
From a teacher’s viewpoint, I wanted to document why so many resent the appointment of either of these women.
Other candidates for the post are worrisome too. Betsy DeVos is a huge voucher proponent in the State of Michigan, although the voucher amendment she peddled there failed. And Jerry Falwell Jr. would likely change the face of public schooling and religious liberties.
The goal of the Trump administration appears to be to destroy democratic public schools.
Do Republicans really want this? Do Democrats? Where have the teachers unions been on this issue? Do they feel they have no say?
From a teacher’s viewpoint, I thought I’d write about how difficult it is to observe the promotion of a Moskowitz or Rhee in this position because both have been up close and personal when it comes to working with children. It hasn’t been pretty.
Both of these women are no friends to public education or students. They are extreme privatization shills supported by those in both parties. There is real fear that public education will be doomed if either is appointed. It will not be good for America’s students.
Eva Moskowitz is the CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City. She makes around $500,000. She has a PhD in history.
She is known for aggressively wanting to push public school students out of their space for the expansion of her charters.
Success Academies have been accused of violating the rights of students with disabilities.
As a teacher, these points alone reflect the competitive notion and harm that occurs with privatization. It doesn’t consider every child. Some children will lose their classrooms and children with disabilities will not be served.
In 2015, Moskowitz was criticized for suspending a kindergartner for his behavior. This drew attention to the high suspension rate in that school.
Kindergartners are by nature squirmy and prone to do silly things. Children who live in poverty might also act out. Moskowitz’s strictness having to do with young children is especially worrisome.
Also, charter schools began with the idea that they would be innovative and assist students—especially students with difficulties. Many charters have strayed from that original concept. They are more like prisons for children.
And it has become well-known that charters push children out of school when they have behavioral difficulties–this includes students with disabilities and ELL students.
The student incident at Success Academy demonstrated that they failed to have innovative ideas to assist children with problems, and they are overly demanding of children.
Michelle Rhee, the contentious chancellor of Washington D.C., fired teachers, principals, and central office staff. I am amazed that no one considers the effect such antics have on people, the loss of jobs, and the economy.
Rhee married Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and is well-liked by the Obama administration.
She helped start The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that is anti-career-teacher, and after being superintendent she started a reform group called Students First. She has a degree in political science.
Much has been written about Rhee. She has maintained a low profile in recent years. This is possibly due to questions surrounding test cheating when she was superintendent.
The only reason for her popularity by corporations and politicians has to be her intent on privatizing public schools and the teaching profession. Rhee never proved herself an outstanding educator.
In my book Losing America’s Schools, I cite a 2007 Newsweek article.
Her students were “more out of control than ever,” and to capture their attention she swatted a bumblebee when it landed on her desk and she popped it into her mouth and gulped it down.
I also discuss the taping incident which would have gotten most teachers in trouble.
Serious concerns were also raised later when a video began circulating on the Internet of Rhee bragging and laughing about taping her students’ mouths shut while escorting them to lunch. She describes, in a jolly manner, how the tape hurt the children and how when the tape was pulled off, their mouths bled.
It makes no sense, nor does it seem fair, that someone who had such difficulty being a teacher herself, who knows little about child development, could have fired so many educators and taken such a strict view on teachers and children in general.
Both of these women seem unfit to lead the nation’s public schools. It is difficult for teachers who care about children to relate to them.
But it looks like no matter who President-elect Trump puts in this position, public schools will still be at risk of being privatized.
America and its children deserve better.
Martha Brant, “Michelle Rhee: Unconventional, Bee Swallowing Reformer,” Newsweek, December 31,2007.
John Kugler, “Rhee Bragged About Taping Students’ Mouths Shut While She was a Teach for America.” Substance News, September 22, 2010.