While a bit hubristic (a common problem these days), Michelle Rhee’s and Adrian Fenty’s Wall Street Journal
“manifesto” is worthy of attention. It offers the rationale for the
teacher layoffs incurred under their watch—the District was overstaffed,
and it was either lay off teachers, or cut critical student programs—as
well as a blueprint for other urban districts attempting to reform
their public-education structures. While some initiatives executed in
D.C. aren’t generalizable, acknowledge the two authors, others, such as
closing low-performing schools and streamlining a bloated central
office, are. The manifesto is most interesting, however, for its
unwitting honesty. Rhee and Fenty admit that their reforms relied on
money they didn’t have: “Since the city did not have the money for a
significant [teacher salary] raise, we implored several foundations to
consider providing the resources to enact a groundbreaking contract.”
This confession demonstrates the corner into which we’ve backed
ourselves: conditioning education reform on more money from outside. As
the money dries up,
however, reformers will have to say goodbye to such stratagems and
instead shift to something more realistic. Who will lead the charge, and
what will their manifesto say?

The Education Manifesto,” by Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty, Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2010.

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