Michelle Rhee joins clergy today in Atlanta for take-back-our schools conference

Michelle Rhee is in town today to host a screening of the new movie “Won’t Back Down,” which is a fictionalized account of a parent takeover of a failing public school via the parent trigger law. (For information on the first real-life application of a trigger law, go here.)

Michelle Rhee is in town today for daylong conference that will feature new film "Won't Back Down."

Michelle Rhee is in town today for daylong conference that will feature new film "Won't Back Down."

Rhee will be part of a panel after the movie that her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, will moderate. Also on the panel will be state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Cobb, Tony Roberts of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, and Tonya Moore, third-grade teacher at Stonewall Tell Elementary School.

Rhee is here because her group, StudentsFirst, is co-sponsoring the daylong Faith Leaders National Education Policy Summit in Atlanta, which will focus on the achievement gap, drop-out rates and public education policies. The co-sponsor is her husband’s nonprofit group, STAND UP for Great Schools. The movie screening and panel are part of the summit program, which is not open to the public.

Here is an op-ed by two participants in the summit, civil rights leader Lonnie C. King, Jr. of  Atlanta, a founding member of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Connecticut state Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth.

By Lonnie C. King, Jr., and Charlie Stallworth

Strong public schools can transform a community. They have the power to positively affect the economic well-being, public safety, and quality of life of the families who live in them. Sadly, our communities have continuously been plagued with poor-performing schools that fail to prepare our children for higher education and the workplace.

While our country as a whole is failing to compete with the rest of the world in key subjects such as math and science, the situation is even more bleak for students of color. According to a U.S. Department of Education report, there has been no significant change in the Black-White achievement gap for 4th grade mathematics and 8th grade reading since 2005. Moreover, several studies have shown that minority students are more likely to attend lower-performing schools.

We have come too far too accept these dismal results. We can and we must do better.

Today, pastors from across the country are convening in Atlanta  for the Faith Leaders National Education Policy Summit. This single-day event, hosted by STAND UP and StudentsFirst, seeks to engage and mobilize faith leaders on the education crisis facing our children and how we can unify the push for change.

In this endeavor, Stand Up has partnered with Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and other denominations to assemble influential faith leaders for this timely discussion.

Education is the civil rights issue of this generation, especially for Black America. For such a time as this, our communities need the aligned leadership of the religious community to stand together and answer the call for our children.

The church must be the driving force of this revolution.

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the church was more than just a meeting place to discuss strategy – for the surrounding community, the church presented a picture of the freedom being sought. The church cultivated unity amongst members and offered encouragement to persevere in the face of opposition. Most importantly, the church provided key direction and guidance from the pulpit.

Members of the Faith community were not only among the most ardent supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, we assumed most of the leadership positions. And in doing so, faith leaders became the catalyst for eradicating discrimination and injustice in modern America. Today, our children need us more than ever. It is our duty to take on this responsibility.

With the right policies in place, we can educate every child in our communities – no matter what zip code they live in. One of those policies that would achieve this goal is Parent Trigger. Rather than being left without options, parents have the opportunity to engage directly in transforming their children’s school. Parent Trigger empowers parents to assemble, and sign a petition to turn around low-performing public schools. By granting this power to parents, low-performing schools can now be held accountable to the needs of the students, and the communities they serve.

As faith leaders, we must mobilize and employ our collective resources to their fullest potential to ensure that we’re providing all children with equality of opportunity.

We encourage faith leaders across the country to participate in this movement, and check out the STAND UP and StudentsFirst websites to learn more about how to advocate education reforms in your communities.

Parents, we urge you to contact your state legislatures and local leaders, and press them to fight for meaningful education reform measures – our children deserve better.

The future of our children is too important to continue accepting the status quo. The time is now.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

80 comments Add your comment

Renee Lord

September 21st, 2012
10:49 am

We, the electorate, have no one to blame for failing schools but ourselves.
That being said, voting “YES” to Amendment One will allow more options for Georgia’s families to choose the school which best meets their children needs.

catlady

September 21st, 2012
10:50 am

I’m all for taking back our schools–from nonsense-peddlers like Michell Rhee!

RJ

September 21st, 2012
10:56 am

MIchelle Rhee? Really? She’s a proven liar that wasn’t successful in her own classroom, yet we should listen to her advice? I prefer to listen to veteran teachers with a PROVEN track record.

B. Killebrew

September 21st, 2012
11:00 am

Amen, catlady.

JB

September 21st, 2012
11:01 am

W. R. Martin

September 21st, 2012
11:03 am

We will never improve our schools until the priests learn to keep their grubby paws away from the schools.
The problems with the schools aren’t that the students, teachers, and administrators don’t kowtow to an imaginary being and need to keep a dozen inconsistent and incongruous thoughts in their heads all day. The problems are much more related to those who think the schools should teach to the test and that teachers should be rewarded for how many students get an A and that the administrators are too quick to side with the whiny parents instead of standing up for the teachers. Little Skippy or Suzie failed? That is the fault of the children and their parents, not the teacher. Skippy wants to be disruptive in class? Skippy gets sent away so the other 30 students can learn.

JB

September 21st, 2012
11:03 am

“I’m all for taking back our schools–from nonsense-peddlers like Michell Rhee!”

Yes!

Ernest

September 21st, 2012
11:08 am

I welcome the church becoming more involved in addressing overall student achievement. I only hope this isn’t for show. While I have an open mind and will listen to almost anyone, put me down for also agreeing with catlady!

Dunwoody Mom

September 21st, 2012
11:14 am

It’s Friday, so I’ll be nice and say “no comment”. But, I agree with catlady as well!

teacher&mom

September 21st, 2012
11:21 am

I’d love to see catlady debate Michelle Rhee….now that would be a “Rhee Event” I’d pay hard-earned cash to see.

If you’ve ever watched Rhee debate an educator, you quickly realize she is all bluster and sound bites with very little substance to back up her talk.

Dave

September 21st, 2012
11:21 am

Soo to summarize, cheating chancellor comes to the cheatingest school disctrict in the country to debate her positions? And shes even cheating on the debte by having her husband moderate. First topic: “Cheating, good or great?”

I_teach

September 21st, 2012
11:34 am

Michelle Rhee overinflated her “success” as a classroom teacher. She taped-yes TAPED-a child’s mouth shut-something teachers may joke about, but never DO, because it is wrong.
After a few years–yes, a few, she rose through the ranks. Disrupted good schools with her “radical, new, improvements.”

For profit companies don’t get it. Michelle Rhee doesn’t get it. She was not well liked by anybody-for a reason.

No one bothers to ask current teachers what’s wrong with education–too bad, because we DO know.

Dunwoody Mom

September 21st, 2012
11:57 am

Has Rhee ever agreed to a debate with someone who holds the opposite views on education? My guess is no, as she would most likely be obliterated in such a debate. Count me in as one would love to see catlady debate Rhee!!!

A reader

September 21st, 2012
12:13 pm

Michelle Rhee has about as much credibility as Beverly Hall.

bootney farnsworth

September 21st, 2012
12:16 pm

I bought into the Rhee hype for awhile, but the long term evidence didn’t work in her favor.

pity she’s not half as smart as she is pretty

Jameson

September 21st, 2012
12:19 pm

How Obama, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, liberals, PBS and the Washington Post helped to create Scott Walker —Undernews.blogspot.com

The serious war on teachers unions didn’t begin in Wisconsin. It was launched by Michelle Rhee and her aforementioned backers. . .

But Rhee couldn’t have done it alone. Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate as a “wonderful new superintendent” and later applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island.–Washington Post

President Obama voiced support Monday for the mass firings of educators at a failing Rhode Island school, drawing an immediate rebuke from teachers union officials whose members have chafed at some of his education policies.—Washington Post

Libs suffering from misdirected anger.

JudyPA

September 21st, 2012
12:23 pm

@dunwoody mom the only time I ever saw Rhee get flustered was when she was in England a few months ago telling their Prime Minister how to run his schools. In an interview on their TV a unionized educator asked Rhee pointed questions about her firing a principal on public TV; Rhee didn’t have a comeback; the professional wasn’t afraid to go for the jugular.

Wilbur

September 21st, 2012
12:32 pm

Doubling down to attack anyone who does not support the slow moving trainwreck that is public education is a fail strategy for teachers. I get that they would like to protect the status quo but parents and tax payers are fed up and are turning against the public education status quo in increasing numbers. Public education in the US rests on an assumption of a population with roughly homogenous aspirations and values. While once a reality, this is no longer true and the old public education model no longer works. More importantly, it never will again.

Change is needed.
Attacking everyone who demands change will work for a few years but will result in a cataclysmic adjustment in pubic education.

Ernest

September 21st, 2012
12:39 pm

Bootney, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the AJC article today which said the $25 million shortfall at GPC was caused not by fraud, but by chronic overspending and senior leaders’ inattention to finances. I guess this makes the case that President Tricoli was incompetent yet not liable or not reviewing the financial. Maybe Maureen will open a blog on that.

Bernie

September 21st, 2012
12:41 pm

Here we are folks. The Charter School religious push with a side of Liberal Intelligentsia. They are here to encourage you and tell you how to VOTE against your own CHILD’s best interest. The only real solution is a return to Good & Responsible Parenting. If we would ALL make that necessary change, such cheer leaders of DOOM & GLOOM would not have an audience.

Beverly Fraud

September 21st, 2012
12:43 pm

Well she’s nothing if not a supportive wife, given the reports she tried to influence the Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of Americorps, to whitewash an investigation into her future husband’s (Kevin Johnson) inappropriate sexual advances toward Americorp’s volunteers.

Read below and ask yourself, “This is a person we trust to have the best interest of children in mind?”

From Bryon York at the Washington Examiner:

“The basic point of her meeting with me was to tell me what a great guy he was,” Walpin recalls, “and what wonderful work he has done, and that maybe he had made mistakes administratively, but that she thought I should give as much consideration as possible to his good work in deciding what to do.”

Rhee’s visit wasn’t a big success. Not long after the meeting, the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is the agency that oversees AmeriCorps, banned Johnson from receiving any more federal money. Walpin referred the financial allegations, as well as the accusations of sexual misconduct, to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. St. Hope was eventually ordered to pay back $425,000 of the AmeriCorps cash. Prosecutors took no action on the sexual allegations. Johnson, meanwhile, won the mayor’s race.

In June of this year, President Obama abruptly fired Walpin. The White House was apparently unhappy with the zeal with which he conducted the St. Hope probe.

sneak peek into education

September 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

Please see the attached link that proves our schools are improving. This flies in the face of the rhetoric we constantly hear from the reformers, like Gates, Broad, Rhee etc…. Yes, there is still room for improvement and we should do this by unifying the schools, communities, and parents. Vote NO in November and support the fight to keep our schools our the hands of the profiteers.

http://www.epi.org/publication/bp278/

Former Reagan Republican

September 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

The clergy needs do their job which is the spiritual life of American. Our schools are only as good as the society it serves and the American family is in critical condition. The clergy is failing America.

Beverly Fraud

September 21st, 2012
12:46 pm

Yes and we saw just how “concerned” the Concerned Black Clergy was for the children of Atlanta during the cheating scandal.

And what a wonderful job Bishop Eddie Sandusky has done with the children of DeKalb.

Beverly Fraud

September 21st, 2012
12:47 pm

“And what a wonderful job Bishop Eddie Sandusky has done with the children of DeKalb.”

Actually I think his name is Bishop Eddie Long. Not quite sure why the name Sandusky came to mind. Apologies.

Mortimer Collins

September 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

The “clergy” refuses to request its congregation to take responsbility for their childrens actions.

The “clergy” expects the govt to be the provider of food, chld-care, transportions etc and instruct their congregations accordingly.

The “clergy” is a huge part of the problem.

Karen

September 21st, 2012
12:53 pm

I think this is about the most stupid law and idea yet. My sister teaches in a black school in a low income area. The majority of her students do not care. They are violent, disruptive, and down right disrespectful to her. The few that do care don’t have an opportunity to learn because of the dynamic in the classroom. Detentions, failing grades, and calling their parents doesn’t work. Many parents don’t even have a current phone number on record. Parents blame her – they say she doesn’t know how to teach blacks. The parents are equally belligerent and disrespectful – that’s where the kids learned it. Having these parents take over a school will not change a thing. If the faith leaders stepped up and taught the parents and children about respect – how to respect themselves as well as others – maybe some real change could happen. But new laws, new administration, new curriculum and new standards will not do a thing until children are taught to care, to focus, and to be respectful. The curriculum and materials are there – the attention is not.

Bernie

September 21st, 2012
12:55 pm

I wonder, if Mayor Johnson and his wife would recommending using Georgia Charter school funds, as they used a bit of President Obama’s stimulus money to have city workers of SACRAMENTO to come to their Home too WASH & DETAIL their CARS!

They really Value the cleanliness of their CARS! more than anything!

Follow the money

September 21st, 2012
1:01 pm

This is all about getting tax money to church run schools and others who want to run bogus charter schools. Privatization doesn’t work, period. It is just a bill of goods we were all sold in the 1980’s so the fat cats could get at tax money. It is destroying the Military and has increased costs there dramatically. Now they are going after the schools.

Educating every child is not always easy or pretty but the schools work like trojans to do just that. Mrs. Rhee failed at her efforts despite unwaivering support from a gullible mayor.

Becky Sayler

September 21st, 2012
1:04 pm

I applaud parents who want to become involved in their children’s schools. However, people like Michelle Rhee who “shoot now, aim later” with questionable policies are not going to help.

Tom Joad

September 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

Education is not the civil rights issue of our time. Civil rights is the civil rights issue of our time. What about equitable access to descent housing? Equitable access to health care? Equitable access to a living wage? Equitable access to justice? If we address these issues in our society the education issue will solve itself.

Dr. John Trotter

September 21st, 2012
1:18 pm

How many times have I said it? Michelle Rhee is one of the biggest educational hypocrites in the country…along Arne Duncan and Mark Elgart. Phoney or hypocrite. Whatever you want to call her. Her stuff ain’t real, and naive legislators and educrats line up to kiss her posterior. Ha!

Batgirl

September 21st, 2012
1:24 pm

Are Michelle Rhee’s fifteen minutes not over? And why is she smiling?

Frankie

September 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

MIchelle Rhee is a Joke…see us Democrats don’t like all Democrats…
They had to change the qulifications from Superintendent of DC Schools to Chancellor inorder to qualify Rhee..

Frankie

September 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

Kathy Cox will be the next article you read about, birds of a feather and all….

Mortimer Collins

September 21st, 2012
1:32 pm

Tom Joad

September 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

Well spoken. I like the part about equitable access to communism!!

Mary Ann

September 21st, 2012
1:44 pm

Honest question here; I’d love to hear other commenters’ thoughts. Research has clearly demonstrated that regardless of income, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, the students at successful public schools tend to have parents who are actively involved with their education. There are lots of reasons that parents may be uninvolved with their children’s schooling– poverty, substance abuse, ignorance, mental illness, cultural attitudes that do not value education, and so on. Most of these factors cannot be impacted by schools in our current set-up, no matter how adept the teachers or how talented and dedicated the administration is. How will diverting even more resources to the children of parents who care and who will agitate for change help the kids left behind, who have no champions? Those kids are the ones who are truly in the greatest need.

As an involved, stereotypically-intown-yuppie parent, I like Rhee’s ideas– how great to be able to only accept the very best for my children! However, I wonder how effective such policies will be for the kids who don’t have a parent/guardian with the time, interest, and social and financial capital to fight for them, who are the ones most truly in need. If I am honest with myself those kids are no less valuable or deserving than my own, and they too have a right to the best education we can give them– and arguably a greater need for it.

How do we avoid creating a permanent underclass of throw-away kids who then are unequipped to help their own kids succeed?

Mary Elizabeth

September 21st, 2012
1:50 pm

I would encourage all readers to check out Jim Galloway’s “Political Insider” column regarding the poll taken to assess the charter school movement in Georgia, entitled, “Your morning jolt: Charter school support holds steady at 58 percent,” September 19, 2012. Galloway writes in his opening line, “The forces behind Georgia’s charter school amendment to the state constitution are out with a new poll this morning that shows voters still comfortably in favor of the measure.”

As the last poster on that thread, I suggested that readers to check out information about this polling group at this link: http://www.mclaughlinonline.com/5

There, readers will learn that this is a Republican polling group, not a non-partisan one. On the polling group’s website are these words: “The Washington Times cites McLaughlin and Associates as one of the best Republican polling firms.” Among its clients are Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Govenor Casey Cagle. The CEO and Partner John McLaughlin writes on the “Home Page” of this website that his firm had been “working with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to help him win a majority in Congress.”

This polling group, evidently then, acts to help clients win elections, not simply to give them polling results. Moreover, in previewing the questions that this polling group submitted to Georgians on the constitutional amendment (from the link provided on that Galloway thread), I found the questions to be quite leading in promoting the value of this constitutional amendment. That is my opinion. It is, also, my opinion that the Republican leaders in Georgia have actively engaged in establishing within Georgia educational policies that are very similar to those advocated by national Republican ideologues of power and influence.

William Casey

September 21st, 2012
1:55 pm

You can almost take it to the bank— if you have heard of an “educator” through the media, that person is a hoax if not a charlatan.

Michele

September 21st, 2012
2:07 pm

We do not need clergy involvement in the education system. If all the clergy in America had been doing their job over the past decades, the United States and Georgia would not be experiencing the effects of the horrific culture we are experiencing in our parents and children where the sense of entitlement is the overwhelming factor in student’s minds. Religious leaders have failed America in their rearing of our youth, so why in the world would you want them to take over education?

MAY

September 21st, 2012
2:10 pm

It’s amazing how many people want the system to continue spiraling downward. Don’t let someone come clean house, don’t open charter schools, forget parent triggers, cry over cut funding (wish those folks could say something like ’see we dropped from 35 to 48 but they can’t because we remain at the bottom during good times and bad). Then they say ‘all we need more parental involvement’….but it’s the parents supporting all of these ideas. It’s really ‘we want parents to make copies for us and come to parent teacher conferences but don’t you dare say we should do anything differently’. Parents are involved and tired of the bureaucracy. They’re ready to hear anyone say they’re listening and want to help. Here’s the action (not words) we can take.

C Jae of EAV

September 21st, 2012
2:13 pm

Panel forums like described in this blog thread would be much more effective if they were not organized as pep rallys.

There are many parents (like myself) and other concerned community stakeholders who are seeking real dialogue concerning the issues of the day related to public education governance and fiscal management.

Unfortunately all we manage to get are carefully crafted commericals that rarely involve tough questions posed to both sides of the debate in tandom.

teacher&mom

September 21st, 2012
2:34 pm

@JudyPA: Here’s a link to the BBC video

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18592185

Beverly Fraud

September 21st, 2012
2:54 pm

Maureen, why not have the AJC invite Dr. Trotter to one of your panel discussions (make it inclusive, invite PAGE and GAE as well). Maybe along with Mark Elgart of SACS?

Beverly Fraud

September 21st, 2012
2:59 pm

“The movie screening and panel are part of the summit program, which is not open to the public.”

These are people who claim they just want to give power to “the public” when it comes to education?

Anybody else notice the irony?

Mountain Man

September 21st, 2012
2:59 pm

I think we need to take back the schools – from the “no-gonads” administrators, the “helicopter” Parents, and the “do more with a LOT less” legislators, and the “don’t care” students.

dc

September 21st, 2012
3:01 pm

There we go…full throat choke attack on Rhee, and completely ignore the real issue…that poor children who want to learn and improve their lot in life desperately need an option to their local failing school – where they’ll be dragged down by the thugs who don’t want to learn, and ridicule (or worse) those who do.

Again..this is why more and more folks are coming down on teachers unions and organizations that fight “reform” at all costs. The willingness to ignore the real issue, and focus on BS, is killing our kids. The only option appears to be to get control of our public education funding away from the educracracy, and give it to people who will get back to the basics…that being a focus on the student, and helping them become all they can become.

Mike

September 21st, 2012
3:03 pm

The church wants to have some control of the schools? Does that mean they will allow the Department of Education to have some control of their Sunday school classes too? Let’s start insisting the Sunday school classes teach scientific theory about geology, evolution, and the capacity of weather systems to flood an entire planet.

Sounds like a fair trade. Oh, and about those property taxes. Some of those churches must be sitting on millions of dollars worth of property.

So we have a deal: You get some influence into how the schools are run, and we get to influence how your classes are run, along with your share of property taxes.

Educational funding problem solved.

Mountain Man

September 21st, 2012
3:04 pm

“Parents blame her – they say she doesn’t know how to teach blacks. ”

Who does? Certainly other black teachers have not succeeded.

(to make sure people don’t think I am racially prejudiced, I should have said “teach low socio-economic status individuals”, that is what it is REALLY about anyway – unfortunately a lot of blacks fall in that category.)

Mountain Man

September 21st, 2012
3:09 pm

“that poor children who want to learn and improve their lot in life desperately need an option to their local failing school – where they’ll be dragged down by the thugs who don’t want to learn, and ridicule (or worse) those who do. ”

These poor children definitely need a solution to their problem – but the solution can be that these thugs and others should be removed from the standard public school – not that the good students need to remove themselves.