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Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools, speaks during
Michelle Rhee (Hyungwon Kang/Reuters)
Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization didn't just lobby to get its agenda inserted into Ohio's anti-union Senate Bill 5, it gave $100,000 to an Ohio Chamber of Commerce-founded group that was subsequently one of the main conduits for the Chamber's campaign supporting SB 5. Politico takes a look at StudentsFirst's tax filings, which show the organization having raised $8 million between October 2010 and July 2011, of which it:
[...] spent $143,000 on lobbying and another $1.8 million on advertising. The group also made a $100,000 grant to Partnership for Ohio’s Future, a grassroots advocacy group founded by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to support the budget of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, according to Linda Woggon, VP for the group. Partnership for Ohio's Future later supported the anti-union Senate Bill 5, but Woggon said that was a separate initiative.
Rhee has typically attempted to maintain a fig leaf of plausibility on the claim that she's not a well-packaged union-buster. When StudentsFirst's lobbying on SB 5 provisions other than the elimination of collective bargaining for public workers became public, the group's lobbyist claimed that since he hadn't worked directly on eliminating collective bargaining, it didn't count as an anti-union move to work on inserting merit pay for teachers (something we know from experience doesn't work) into the bill. Now we learn that StudentsFirst gave money to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's 501(c)4 ... but not to support SB 5 or anything, just, you know, because their goals were so aligned in general. Which is the point exactly.

Michelle Rhee claims that her goals are not to bust unions, weaken teaching as a profession, or turn schools into profit centers for education corporations. But in addition to this sterling work in Ohio, her organization has hired a Republican lobbyist to push school privatization in Pennsylvania, collaborated on a Michigan bill limiting collective bargaining for teachers, and subsequently, when the gay-baiting Republican state representative with whom the organization worked on that bill was facing recall, StudentsFirst spent more than $70,000 to try to bail him out. Meanwhile, Rhee herself praised a Tennessee law eliminating collective bargaining for teachers and preventing teachers unions from making campaign contributions or lobbying the state legislature.

It's not some weird coincidence that since making her reputation working for a Democratic mayor, Rhee has worked with all the most noxious Republican governors on shared education policy goals, or that her organization has gotten big contributions from Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family. On education at least, her goals and those of John Kasich, Rick Scott and Rupert Murdoch are aligned.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 03:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Progressive Hippie, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and German American Friendship Group.

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