How do I wind up with this stuff anyway? Ah well, in any case, Kent State University in Ohio recently hosted Michelle Rhee as a guest speaker for the paltry, “discounted” sum (read: discounted) of $35,000. Inasmuch as the private sector is largely a threat to free and equitable public education, I have to say that running a big foundation that apparently puts Students First ain’t too shabby. I mean, $35K, that’s more than a lot of new teachers make in one year. And, as I said, this is the discounted rate from the original $50K.
The contract that I have, which you can access here, also stipulates these fantastic items:
- A first class plane ticket
- VIP hotel suite
- Coverage for all “incidentals”
- And a “town car” driven by a “professional”
I’m not an attorney, just a simple education professor. But I will say that the proceeds, excessive as they are, are apparently going to something called Rhee Enterprises, LLC and care of a creative artists agency. So, like a talent agent? I mean, I get it: you make huge bank on the road as some hard-ass former education czar whose ideas have been debunked on numerous occasions. I guess you’re going to need someone to manage your “talent.” But, this whole LLC thing: it’s operated by her brother. So then Rhee Enterprises, which is really funny by the way, needs to pay her brother for managing the whole show. What’s his cut? Hey, wait, what are the students getting out of this? I thought they were first? I don’t know, reeks of nepotism to me, but I don’t know the family situation there.
Ultimately, the feelings of anyone opposing Rhee and her ilk won’t be shattered or surprised by this information. It just confirms what they’ve always suspected: she and her management style are more important than the ideas she brings to the table. There are no ideas, they’ve all been discredited. It’s more of an attitude than substance, and Kent State just wasted thousands on a circus sideshow.
A lot of privateers and corporate reformers would like to punch meek little educators right in their mouths. And Rhee sort of did that, minus the actual punching. Rhee’s proponents, alternatively, likely won’t bat an eyelash because they themselves want to make money out of education. Big money, and that’s what Rhee is essentially doing. When she was booted out of DC on a rail, Rhee retreated to the open arms of the private sector so that she could bypass the democratic process to push all sorts of reforms that seem to have little to do with actual students’ lives (for instance, collective bargaining).
As an educator, collective bargaining, teacher evaluation, standardized testing, and other draconian measures would not be the first places I’d turn to improve the lot of students. Abusing the ones tasked with the work of education seems counterproductive. But, this contract shows that it’s not really about students, their lives, or well-being. It’s about money and power. And just for a frame of reference here, I’m an educator, a college professor, who has taught and continues to teach in public schools. I supervise student teachers. As a public state employee in a right to work state, I had to beg and plead to get a few hundred dollars to travel to a professional meeting. And this charlatan Rhee gets $35K to give a speech. I hope Kent State, and all who are graced with her presence, are better off for it.