The Blog at CTA

Students or Billionaires First? Investigative Reporters Provide Answer


(Photo above) Michelle Rhee attacks teachers unions during a January 2012 “listening tour” of Sacramento. (Photos by Len Feldman)

Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools, calls her organization “StudentsFirst,” but a new white paper by investigative reporters at the Center for Public Integrity suggests “Billionaires First” might be a more appropriate name.

In a hard-hitting expose Billionaire backed education groups battle teachers unions in state races,  the nonpartisan journalists put it this way: “StudentsFirst — created by former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee — is leading a new wave of ‘education reform’ organizations, funded largely by wealthy donors, that are challenging teachers’ unions and supporting mostly conservative candidates up and down the ticket in dozens of states.”

The journalists report that these “reform groups are pushing school vouchers and dismantling of employment rights, including due process protections.

The report notes that StudentsFirst put at least $3 million in outside spending into state elections in 2012, provided by donors including  billionaires Eli Broad, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Rhee has based her organization in Sacramento, home of her husband, former basketball player Mayor Kevin Johnson.

(Photo above) Barred from attending the Rhee Sacramento event in January 2012, local teachers made it clear that the former Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools was not interested in hearing from them.

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