by Steven Hale
As the Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee was accustomed to being able to fire whomever she wanted, whenever she wanted, even in front of cameras.
Currently, only the National Rifle Association has the authority to fire state legislators in Tennessee. But Rhee may be striking similar fear in their hearts soon. Her pro-charter, pro-voucher education organization StudentsFirst was one of the most active in Tennessee's state and local races this election season. And it turns out, they have good aim.
Andrea Zelinski breaks down the numbers, at The City Paper:
Led by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst spent $112,113 on DeBerry, pouring most the money into canvassing and more than $5,500 into phone-banking.
Expected on the docket this year are three hotly contested proposals: one to allow groups wanting to give charter schools the option to apply to a statewide panel; one to create a school voucher program; and one to strengthen parents’ ability to turn around failing schools. StudentsFirst supports all of those plans.
Four other lawmakers on the 15-member House Education Committee were on the receiving end of the group’s political generosity to the tune of $16,500, including Reps. Kevin Brooks with $5,000; Debra Moody with $5,000; Dawn White with $1,500 and Ryan Williams with $5,000. Members were appointed to the committee by House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Members sitting on the Senate Education Committee collectively took in $36,500 from StudentsFirst. Those members include Education chair Delores Gresham with $10,000; Sens. Steve Dickerson with $11,500; Todd Gardenhire with $1,500; Joey Hensley with $13,500.
That's no moon ... that's a PAC.
By comparison, the state's largest teachers union, the Tennessee Education Association, contributed $15,000 to House education committee members — none over $5,000 — and gave nothing to members in the Senate committee.