It looks like Washington DC is done with Michelle Rhee, and that she may be looking for a new job. To quote the Beverly Hillbillies, maybe California is the place she ought to be. Come January, she will be unemployed and newly married to the Mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson. Perhaps it is time for Michelle to consider relocation to the Golden state, and take on an even bigger challenge than fixing the DC schools, namely fixing the California schools. Are California schools that bad that they might need of the shock and awe methods that Rhee has brought to DC? A quick look at the assessment scores in the state will tell you yes. California ranks near the bottom in nearly every NAEP assessment subject and grade. And when you look at the district level results for large districts, two of the three large California districts (Los Angeles and Fresno) are as bad or worse than DC. Take 4th grade reading, a gateway skill, 18 percent of DC students were proficient compared to only 13 percent in Los Angeles and 12 percent in Fresno. So clearly the need for dramatic change is there. In fact the needs and challenge in California are even greater than in DC when you consider that Los Angeles alone has 15 times as many students as DC public schools. Plus working with California schools, the resources available would be about half those of the DC schools ($8,322 per pupil in CA compared to $17,638 per pupil in DC according to the NEA), and that is before the additional cuts that education is likely to experience for the state to balance its $19 billion deficit. And, if you thought that going head to head with Randi Weingarten was challenging, wait until you meet the California Teachers’ Association.
If she is up to the challenge, there are likely to be some edureformer jobs open in her fiancé’s backyard. California is about to go through a leadership change with both the governor and the state superintendent termed out, so the new direction for the education debate in the state is not determined. And, so far at least, both gubernatorial candidates have stayed out of saying much about their education agendas (Here is a brief summary of their education related positions). So, either candidate could easily hire Rhee to chart a new course for state policy.
Would a new governor be brave enough to hire Michelle? Probably not because whoever is governor, he or she will have enough to deal with on the state’s budget and economy, and will likely leave the state’s education system to limp along underfunded and low performing.