Michelle Rhee at the RNC: Education reform “has to be a bipartisan movement”

Ron Matus

michelle rheeMichelle Rhee calls herself a “very, very, lefty liberal.” So what is she doing at the RNC in Tampa?

Building bridges.

“Despite the fact that I hold Democratic views on a lot of things, what I have found in my work on education advocacy and policy is that I often times find myself agreeing with, and getting the support of, Republicans,” she told redefinED after sharing the stage Tuesday with Jeb Bush. “And if I was a partisan person, then I would sort of eschew them and say no. But I’m about getting things done for kids. I’m about pushing policies that are in the best interest of children, and I honestly do not think we can accomplish that if we’re going to sort of stay on our side of the aisle. It has to be a bipartisan movement to do that.”redefinED-at-RNC-logo-snipped-300x148

You can hear the full interview by clicking on the link below, but here are highlights:

On a centrist coalition in education: “Over the last five years or so, I have developed lots of good, strong working relationships with Republicans. And when I hear them talk in those meetings, I learn about what their priorities are and kind of what they want to do, and then I also go back to my own party and have those same discussions. There’s not a lot of difference between the two. And so, I know right now where the federal government is, is sort of you know, everyone’s staking out their positions and holding firm to those, but I actually think education could be the place where it would make the most sense for everyone to come together.”

On convincing other Democrats: “The only way to do that is to bring the conversation back to the level of children. And to ask people questions about what they would want for their own kids. Because if you go to any Democratic (function) – and trust me I go to a lot of Democratic circles and I talk about this stuff – and you bring up vouchers, people just go nuts. Or charter schools. Or even teacher tenure, you know. ‘Ohh, I can’t touch that.’ But if you take it down to the level of, ‘Okay, so if your child was in an ineffective teacher’s classroom, you’re just saying then that that would be ok? That would be okay if that teacher stays in the classroom the next year and your younger kid might get (placed there)?” They would say absolutely no way.”

On Obama’s education policies: “He has really been, I think, incredibly impressive. I never thought that I would live to see the day that a Democrat, a high-profile Democrat, much less a Democratic African-American president, saying the things he’s saying. He says I support the growth and expansion of charter schools. I support merit pay for teachers. We should recognize and reward the best teachers and for ineffective teachers, you need to find a new job. Those are the sorts of things that Democrats have never said.”

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