from the Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update | via e-mail
Friday, August 8, 2014 12:32 PM :: Controversial education reformer Michelle Rhee made news again recently as it was announced she would be the new chairwoman of St. Hope, a charter management organization based in Sacramento, California. Some see this as a lateral move from the national stage to a more targeted position where Rhee will have the opportunity to work with specific schools within a community. Others view the move as a retreat from the national scene where Rhee’s reform efforts have been met with criticism and limited success. It is also worth noting that St. Hope was founded by Kevin Johnson, the current mayor of Sacramento and Rhee’s husband.
Michelle Rhee began making national headlines as she spearheaded a controversial reform effort as chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS) in the nation’s capital. Around that same time, Rhee held a board position for St. Hope, comprised of four schools serving about 1,800 students in Sacramento. Johnson, a former NBA star, started St. Hope over twenty years ago as an after-school program for children in Oak Park, the low-income community in Sacramento where he grew up.
Following her stint at DCPS, Rhee went on to form a national organization called Students First, an advocacy organization that seeks to shape State and local education policy and politics. The organization generated significant press in its infancy, but has recently scaled back a number of its projects in various States. This move to Sacramento is seen by Rhee’s detractors as proof that her national reputation is suffering from ineffective programs spearheaded by Students First.
However, Rhee could also use her new position to pilot new programs over which she would have more control. Along those lines, St. Hope also drafted another Students First official, Enoch Woodhouse, to serve as the charter group's interim superintendent. Regardless of whether they support Rhee or not, many eyes will be on St. Hope to see how she will use this new position to further her reform agenda.
Lesli A. Maxwell, “Michelle Rhee to Chair Her Husband's Sacramento Charter Group,” Education Week: District Dossier, August 5, 2014.