As the test cheating scandals heat up around the country, media attention is now increasingly focused on the issue. Viewpoints vary–from the uninformed and superficial to those that offer a deeper scrutiny on the root causes of cheating. In other words, from the stupid to the sublime. Take your pick. We are compiling a running list on recent ErasureGate articles. Please feel free [...]
Written by Seth Sandronsky for the News Review. Read the entire article here.
“Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, a nonprofit and tax-exempt education-reform group that operates in 34 states with a national headquarters in Sacramento, raises money in secrecy to do political advocacy. The group raised $4.6 million in 2010-2011 for its 501(c)(4) nonprofit activities, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
StudentsFirst does not have to share donors’ names and none are on the IRS’s Form 990 that the group filed for the tax year ending July 31, 2011. IRS policy gives StudentsFirst a legal shield for donor secrecy. In this respect, Rhee’s group resembles GOP strategist Karl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Rove aims, of course, to boost the ranks of Republican officeholders this November.
Rhee is a Democrat, at least nominally. Her education-reform agenda includes upending teacher tenure, establishing teacher merit pay, increasing publicly funded charter and online schools, and expanding standardized testing. The annual math and reading test scores of public-school students as the lead measure of their classroom achievement looms large in the education reform agenda of StudentsFirst. Rhee’s group aims to split public-school teachers from pupils and their families.
StudentsFirst is busy at the California state Capitol and at state houses nationwide, calling for new rules for public schools. Why? Rhee’s group blames public-school teachers and their labor unions for a lack of accountability to parents and students.
While U.S. public schools try to educate all youth—both the officially poor and scores of others whose families barely make ends meet—the teacher-accountability narrative of StudentsFirst sidesteps the concrete fact of economic inequality. This trend weakens public funding of education. It’s part of an anti-union agenda sweeping the land.
The goal of StudentsFirst is to raise $1 billion in five years, which will not come from the 99 percent, but from the wealthy.
In mid-July, the IRS announced that it would review its tax policy for 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Donor transparency can move StudentsFirst out of the shadows and onto the public’s radar screen. The main secret donors to Rhee’s group are likely the 1 percent who also rent our politicians.
Sunlight boosts democracy. Let it shine.”
As blogger Jonathan Pelto pointed out yesterday, there is quite a cast of characters funding Rhee’s CT frontgroup. GNEPSA’s top five contributors include Nick Biem (venture capitalist behind the $100k+ job site TheLadders), ConnAD (a project of ConnCAN), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So, while Bloomberg cuts checks to her CT front group, Rhee works to preserve Bloomberg’s much-criticized legacy in New York.
Michelle Rhee, frantic that “Won’t Back Down” opened to overwhelmingly negative reviews, has been desperately trying to inflate the movie’s scores on movie rating sites.
As Progressive Change Campaign Committee originally reported, StudentsFirst staffer Matt David (a former Republican spin doctor) got caught spamming positive reviews for “Won’t Back Down.” StudentsFirst regional director Catherine “Cheesecake Factory Giftcards” Robinson tweeted at her followers urging them to inflate the films ratings.
Those who have followed Rhee’s career will immediately recognize a parallel. Before the DC mayoral primary in the fall of 2010, when everyone realized that Rhee was an albatross around the neck of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was trailing in the polls, Rhee still thought that Fenty would win. Reviewers are almost universally panning “Won’t Back Down” for a thin story line that relies heavily on tired clichés and magical plot devices. Rhee screened the movie dozens of times and should have picked up these deficiencies. Her failure to do so speaks volumes about how detached Rhee is from consensus reality.
And what does Michelle Rhee routinely do when the facts don’t mesh with her mythologies? She spins. Just like she spun her gains in Baltimore, her reputation as a teacher, and her accomplishments as a Chancellor. So, while the movie has drawn positive reviews from just 15% of top critics at RottenTomatoes.com, expect Rhee to cling to positive reviews, even though they’re few and far between.
StudentsFirst is desperately trying to get people to see Won’t Back Down, a new movie from the makers of Waiting for Superman. And it’s no wonder why– the movie is getting trashed by reviewers, and is currently neck-and-neck with Dude, Where’s My Car? on Rotten Tomatoes.
(apologies to the makers of Dude, Where’s My Car?)
StudentsFirst has given out over a thousand tickets to this film, not counting renting out two theaters to pretend that they were part of the conventions. Their New York branch is currently offering two tickets to anyone that donates $25. What’s driving this desperate promotion? Might it have something to do with StudentsFirst getting funding from Rupert Murdoch, whose company is producing the film? Or the fact that a StudentsFirst board member is a key advisor to Murdoch? One thing is for sure: it’s certainly not their appreciation for great cinema.
Before she started StudentsFirst, Rhee ran an education consultancy called The New Teacher Project (TNTP). Her bio on the old TNTP website is very interesting. Rhee’s short biography stays pretty much the same from 2001 through 2003. And then, this line appears:
“Her teaching career started at Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore, MD, where her outstanding success in the classroom earned her acclaim on Good Morning America and The Home Show, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and the Hartford Courant.”
It sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? In her three short years as a teacher in Baltimore, Rhee somehow managed to earn accolades from Good Morning America and The Wall Street Journal? What’s Rhee’s secret? Good ole’ fashioned resume inflation, as it turns out. Only the Hartford Courant covered Rhee’s school. Rhee was mentioned in the piece, but not lauded for her “outstanding success.”
Just like the story Rhee spun about her gains in Baltimore, this one less than true.