Washington, DC Teacher’s Union vs. Michelle Rhee

Andrew Rotherham:

Everyone is chattering about this full-page ad the AFT took out in this morning’s Washington Post. I work in this space and am quite familiar with all the protagonists and the issues and it took me a minute to make sense of the point of the ad. Maybe I’m stupid or needed more coffee but it was really busy and the punchline is buried in two unchecked boxes on the lower right. So I’m not sure it’s going to move the casual observer to action – or even to an opinion. It needs a clearer message but it’s probably hard to get that message on paper without giving away the game.
Leaving aside technical deficiencies, clearly the strategy is to appear reasonable everywhere else in order to box in Michelle Rhee in D.C. But there are two problems with that strategy. First, at the elite level people get what’s going on (increasingly the press, too) so the whole thing is sort of over before it even started and that plan only works if they can make this stuff real elsewhere and the clock is ticking on that. Meanwhile, even those frustrated with aspects of Rhee’s style and tactics are still sympathetic to what she’s trying to do and the obstacles to that. Second, and more basically, outside of big reform initiatives with lessons I don’t think Michelle Rhee really cares about what’s happening elsewhere and she’ll hold her ground. She responds to different incentives like the rest of us but peer pressure isn’t one of them.