The Connecticut Parents Union is a statewide community-based group led by Gwen Samuel, a parent with a child in the New Haven city schools. The group had arranged a March 14, 2012 meeting with the Governor of Connecticut, Daniel Malloy, as part of a rally planned for that day. But Governor Malloy decided not to attend once he heard that Michelle Rhee would also be there. The Governor acknowledged the need for improvements in the public education system, but said through a representative of his office:
“As much as the governor respects people’s rights to be a part of the education dialogue, Ms. Rhee has at times been a divisive figure,“ Malloy’s Senior Communications Adviser Roy Occhiogrosso said Monday. “And the governor is determined to try and have this discussion about education reform in a way that’s not divisive.”
Rhee is the former chancellor of DC public schools who left when her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, was voted out of office. Rhee has since conducted her lobbying efforts under a cloud of controversy regarding her summary firing of hundreds of DC teachers using a system of assessments that don’t properly identify low-performing teachers, a test score scandal (“Erase to the Top”) in DC schools she had touted as high achievers, inflated claims about DC school performance under her tenure, and unsubstantiated claims about her own ability as a teacher to raise student test scores. In her current career as a lobbyist/consultant, Rhee has provided policy advice to some of the most right-wing governors in the nation (Daniels of Indiana, Scott of Florida). She is apparently reaching out to parent groups to lend her Oprah-sanctified star power and advice. It’s unclear what kind of talking points come with the assistance.
Connecticut Parents Union backs “parent trigger” laws that enable neighborhood public schools to be converted to charters and has opposed teacher union waivers to the trigger law in districts where they were applied for. In addition, CPU supports:
Ending non-therapeutic detention or “time-out/scream” rooms as a practice in the schools; support of Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents’ proposal to replace teacher tenure with five-year renewable contracts.
More on the CPU’s goals can be found on their website.
The March 14 rally is planned as a joint Michelle Rhee/Students First and Connecticut Parents Union event, a relationship formalized in February, 2012.