Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Nashville City Paper missed the memo

I have already posed questions about the quality of Andrea Zelinski's recent interview with StudentsFirst zealot Michelle Rhee. But for the sake of fact-checking the City Paper reporter let's compare and contrast her observations about Rhee being relocated to Tennessee to those of Anthony Cody, a public education advocate who lives on the West Coast.

First, Zelinki:

A Tennessee transplant, she is turning her attention to schools in her new state.

The polarizing former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor heads up StudentsFirst, an education reform organization she founded just as she began setting roots in the Volunteer State. The group has already handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to state-level political campaigns and a handful of local elections here, positioning itself as a force to be reckoned with.

Next, Cody:

Michelle Rhee has made her home in Sacramento, ever since she married the city's mayor, former basketball player Kevin Johnson. Since landing here, she has been working to expand the influence of her lobbying group, StudentsFirst. Last fall, a school board member resigned in nearby West Sacramento, too late to be replaced in the fall election. School board members appointed a replacement, but an ally of Kevin Johnson, West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon, mounted a campaign to force a special election, which will cost of $100,000. And guess who is running to fill the seat? Francisco Castillo, an employee of none other than StudentsFirst.

Local school board races used to be small town affairs. But recently, as money has flowed into education reform across the country, we have seen local races take on national significance. And StudentsFirst clearly cares about the outcome of this local election, right in Michelle Rhee's back yard.

Zelinski might have been able to clear up the confusion had she been willing to ask Rhee to clarify whether she is a Californian or a Tennessean or both rather than running with the "Tennessee transplant" lede headlong into her interview. As things stand, I'm not convinced that she is transplanted here at all.

Thanks, SouthComm, for inducing more disarray into local perceptions in education reform.

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