President-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee as he continues his search for an education secretary under his administration, the Trump transition team told the press on Friday.
Trump’s search for education secretary appears to be crossing party lines. Rhee, who has identified as a Democrat throughout her career, is a strong supporter of school choice (including vouchers), which appears to be the top K-12 priority for Trump. She also rose to prominence for how she handled teachers and teacher evaluations during her tenure in the District of Columbia, which lasted from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, she left the nation’s capital and founded StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that pushes for choice, reforms to labor policies often unfriendly to teachers’ unions, and data-based school accountability. She stepped down as the leader of StudentsFirst in 2014.
Rhee’s name came up as a possible Trump secretary of education a few days ago, along with Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz, who served as a Democratic member of the New York City Council. Moskowitz met with Trump this week, but then announced Thursday she would not work in a Trump administration.
[UPDATE: One potential candidate who isn’t a Democrat appears to be Betsy DeVos, the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, which support school choice including vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Trump is also set to meet soon with DeVos, who formerly led the Michigan Republican Party.]
One of the more high-profile figures in public education, Rhee would likely be applauded by at least some choice advocates if she ends up as education secretary. However, she would be defying some of her allies in the choice movement, including Democrats for Education Reform, which on Thursday urged Democrats to reject serving as Trump’s education secretary unless he backs away from controversial statements and “commits to educating the whole child and supporting the communities and families they depend on.”
Rhee is also strongly disliked by unions and others suspicious of high-stakes accountability. And many conservatives opposed to the Common Core State Standards, which Rhee has supported, could also be alarmed by the prospect of Rhee as education secretary—in fact, some of them are petitioning Trump not to appoint a common-core supporter.