Saturday, September 25, 2010
Adrian Fenty, Mayor of Washington D.C., lost his re-election bid to Vincent Gray quite convincingly; by 10% points. Fenty, a man that most describe as aloof, has been an effective mayor. During the Fenty administration the murder rate decreased and the public school system test scores increased.
Fenty hired both the police commissioner and the school Chancellor; Michelle Rhee. Rhee figures prominently in the new documentary "Waiting for Superman". The documentary shows the trials and tribulations of the average American trying to get a good education for their child. Sadly, all too many are unsuccessful.
This is especially true if you live in a poorer, more urban environment; such as Washington, DC. The district has a great deal of problems. Poverty, gangs, homelessness, drugs, AIDS infections, and on it goes. One of the biggest problems that DC has had over the years is a broken school system. It certainly is not for a lack of funds. DC spends a great deal of money per student in public school. The number is somewhere around $17,000 per student one of the highest in country. The results for that money is less than stellar. Some of the lowest test rates in the country. Obviously, the problems go much deeper than the finances.
Some of the schools are in major disrepair and are in horrible neighborhoods, where I certainly wouldn't be comfortable to have my small child walk to and fro. The district recently lost the federal funds for school vouchers; even though the program was wildly successful. In walks Michelle Rhee. Rhee who has a reputation as bringing a no nonsense take no prisoners approach to fixing the broken system that Americans have created for themselves.
Rhee has fired teachers who were shown to be incompetent and unable to raise the level of education in their classrooms. She also has closed entire schools that were just failing the students in every way. This has been none too popular with the local and national teachers unions. Nor did it sit well in a majority black city when many of the teachers were black themselves.
Fenty who has been not just a defender of Rhee, he is one of her biggest fans. He also has not played the political games that everyone in DC has become accustomed to. He hired the best people for the job. He ran the city in a way to lower costs and improve services. He wasn't always successful, but he did the job that so many have no desire to perform. And by no means did escape his own scandals. He did hire some of his fraternity brothers to perform some services that caused an uproar, and I am sure helped in his defeat.
Rhee is almost certain to lose her job after Gray is officially elected; and he will be as no Republican is running in the race. The unions spent millions to get Gray elected and the payback will be her head on a platter.
While I doubt that Michelle Rhee and I agree on anything politically, we both agree that every child in this country deserves a good education; and that ain't happen now. She is willing to make some difficult choices that Americans have yet to accept that we are going to have to make to straighten this ship.
I find it quite sad that the teachers unions could buy the opinions of the very people that Rhee was trying to help. We are all going to have to make some sacrifices to get this country heading in the right direction again. Improving public education is a vital if we are truly going to get that done. Rhee's innovative and tough love ideas may be just what we need; and sadly it will be some other city that will benefit.