Union adversary hails worthy foe

25th April 2014 at 01:00
US reformer says they protect their members `extremely well'

Michelle Rhee, the controversial US school reformer, made her name as the scourge of classroom unions. But the former Washington DC schools chancellor has decided that, despite her run-ins with unions, they actually do a good job.

"A lot of people say to me, `Well, there are so many special interests out there - for example, the teachers' unions, [which are] really the root of the problem', and I've long disagreed with that notion," she said. "They're doing what they're supposed to be doing. Their job is to look out for the interests and priorities of their members, and they do that extremely well every day."

During her term as chancellor, which lasted from 2007 to 2010, Ms Rhee was notorious for her willingness to close schools and lay off teaching staff. But despite criticism, she told the Core of Education website that unions were simply "using their influence and their resources to further their agenda.that's the way American politics works".

Such a rapprochement between the unions in England and Michael Gove seems unlikely after another combative set of Easter conferences, during which the education secretary was described by one NUT official as a "demented dalek on speed".

Ms Rhee now leads StudentsFirst. She said such organisations were needed to ensure that it wasn't only well-funded "unions and textbook manufacturers" that had a voice.

Watch the interview with Michelle Rhee at news.tesconnect.com

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