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Who is Education Secretary Candidate Michelle Rhee?

Who is Education Secretary Candidate Michelle Rhee?

If you’ve been working in the education community for a while, you’ve undoubtedly heard the name Michelle Rhee.

As former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor (from 2007-2010), Rhee has made a name for herself as an unapologetic school reformer who, despite being a Democratic, might jive very well in a Donald Trump administration.

Part of Rhee’s ideals for education reform include school choice, one of the only K-12 priorities Trump spoke of during his time campaigning.

" many traditional districts around the country are seeing, giving parents choice in the form of charter schools and private scholarships forces districts to improve to keep their students. I’m not for school choice for its own sake. I am for choice because it can, directly and indirectly, provide better opportunities for low-income children—not simply more opportunities," Rhee said of her beliefs in 2011.

Unlike Trump, however, Rhee is a proclaimed proponent of the Common Core and consequentially national academic standards. Trump, before outlining his K-12 policy agenda this past September, had little to say about education aside from his hatred of the Common Core, even releasing this video during his campaign.

While Rhee’s support of what Trump has called a “total disaster” might put them at odds, Trump has been criticized by the education community on countless occasions for not fully understanding what the standards are. Perhaps a better understanding will make him more flexible in his stance.

Personality-wise, Rhee and Trump might very well get along. Neither appear to be scared of public opposition to their opinions, at the very least.

In 2008, TIME Magazine said of Rhee:

”Teachers hate her. Principals are scared of her. How Michelle Rhee became the most revolutionary—and polarizing—force in American education.”

Written in 2008, Rhee would remain as D.C. schools chancellor for two more years.

Rhee isn’t the only education candidate being considered—and comments she made to The New York Times in 2012 suggest she might not even be totally interested.

When asked about her interest in politics, Rhee said she would be leaving it up to her husband—Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson.

"My husband is the politician in the family. He’s the mayor of Sacramento, also a Democrat. So I’m going to leave all of the politics up to him..." she said.

Not exactly comments from someone who might be willing to work as a Democratic in a staunchly Republican administration, but only time will tell.

For now, the only other potential education secretary that has met with Trump is American Federation for Children founder Betsy DeVos.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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