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Aw shucks, Rhee First. T'wern't nothin'...



I got credit today for coining the term RheeFirst by the authors of the blog by the same name.

Turns out Mike Klonsky thought of the name RheeFirst way before anyone else. So kudos to him. Read the entire article here.

[Rhee has] named her new group, Students First, but a look at her website will tell you that it should have been called Rhee First. The kick-off is largely the work of her clout-heavy, tres expensive PR firm headed by former Obama white house staffer Anita Dunn working with former N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein and Rhee’s fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. -- Klonsky blog

If there's some kind of monetary award, I will accept it proudly and use it to buy the next round over at the Heartland Cafe's Buffalo Bar. Instead, somehow, all it's done is put me in the middle of dust-up between the broom lady, Rhee, Politico and the AFT. Until today, I haven't been a regular reader of RF and was never that concerned about the anonymity of its author(s). So I was taken by surprise when Huffington's excellent ed writer, Joy Resmovits called to ask me if I was aware of the mention.

She told me that Rhee's front group, Students First (have you noticed that the corporate reformers always put students or kids in the names of their front groups?) is going after the RF blog, calling it an "attack blog" and pinning it to the union.

Politico's Ben Smith reported last week, "that an anti-Michele Rhee website had been set up from an IP address registered to the American Federation of Teachers." Today, Smith quotes Rhee's SFers who are "disturbed" at the lack of civility around the whole debate.

"There are a number of disagreements between teacher-union advocates and student advocates about the future of the our schools that deserve serious consideration, but there's no room for these kinds of personal and duplicitous attacks."

I guess Rhee's acolytes have forgotten how uncivil she was when she fired hundreds of D.C. teachers and offered the media this explanation:

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" (Fast Company)

As far as I'm concerned, that statement alone make Rhee fair game for the bloggers -- so long as they tell it straight. Smith, to his credit, also carried the union's response to SF:

It's revealing that StudentsFirst's spokesperson calls an attack site—yet doesn't challenge any of the facts on the site. That's because aggregates articles raising fair and legitimate questions about Michelle Rhee's agenda. Much of this information can't be found on Michelle Rhee's official website, such as her work with Republican governors to promote vouchers and to dismantle public education, her failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the cheating that occurred on her watch in Washington, D.C., or countless other examples you can find on

Now I've got media folks calling me up and asking for my take on all this. OK. I don't mind. Here it is. I prefer bloggers to be open and above board, especially when it comes to directing (well deserved) fire at individuals. I speak here as someone who has faced the slings and arrows, as well as lies and distortions of my political past from Anonymous on many occasions, especially during the 2008 election campaign. I hate duck-and-runners.

If the AFT is behind RheeFirst, they -- or whoever is the individual blogger -- should proclaim themselves proudly and stand behind their accurately-aimed and obviously effective Rhee-barbs. Of course there are times when anonymous blogging is appropriate and when being open can lead to being fired or other forms of retribution. But Randi and the union don't have to worry about that. They should be able to dish it out and take it.

It bothers me that Weingarten at times speaks out of both sides of her mouth re. Rhee. As I pointed out in the post cited above,

"Money-magnet Rhee claims the group will raise $1 billion from patrons Gates, Broad and other private corporate sources. That perked up the ears of ever-willing AFT prez Randi Weingarten who invited Rhee to “work with us.”

The union can't have it both ways. If they are really going after union-busting corporate reformers like Rhee, they can't turn around and then ask them for a seat at their table.

Keep at it, RheeFirst, whoever you are. And thanks for the name recognition and the Rhee-post. Get it? 

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Mike Klonsky

Mike Klonsky is an educator, writer, school reform activist, and director of the Small Schools Workshop (