Michelle Rhee, teachers’ union adversary and one of the most controversial names in the education reform movement, is pitching the Connecticut reforms signed into law last month as a peace offering to the presidents of the nation’s largest unions.

“We are pleased that both of your organizations have described the reforms recently passed in Connecticut as a victory,” her Wednesday letter to the presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers reads. “They can be part of a national model… Many states across the country are considering or have considered similar reforms… but advocates in those states have often had trouble securing support for these reforms from your local unions, and we hope you will speak up in support of these important reforms.”

True, the unions endorsed the final education bill signed into law. But the process wasn’t always that smooth.

Local affiliates of the NEA and AFT led two days of rallying at the state Capitol against key components of a bill proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The state’s largest union spent hundreds of thousands of dollars airing television and radio attack advertisements.

Rhee points to three reforms signed into law that unions supported shortly after the bill was signed into law, including creating a network of schools the state intervenes in, building teacher evaluations linked to student growth and increasing charter school funding.

The implementation of one of these reforms is already causing consternation with officials at the CEA.

The Huffington Post has a good rundown of the rocky relationship between Rhee and the national unions and their reaction to her letter.

“NEA members know great public schools for every student are built on collaboration through trust and engagement, not by sending messages through the media,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told the Huffington Post.

Rhee may be pitching Connecticut as a national model, but she has also said her lobbying for additional education reforms in Connecticut is far from done.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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