Controversial group tries to take root in Michigan

A group founded by the former chancellor of the public school system in Washington, D.C. is trying to take root here -- and a handful of other states -- by endorsing efforts to gut teacher tenure and collective bargaining.

Students First is recruiting Michigan members, advertising in statewide media, and touts "Michigan’s Plan for Education Reform" on its website, with claims that "saving great teachers" requires an end to seniority-based assignments, elimination of tenure, and more. Group founder Michelle Rhee, the divisive former chancellor of the public school system in Washington D.C. testified to lawmakers this spring about her ideas, even though there is no data linking them to better student achievement.

In a TV ad, Students First says that it doesn't matter if a teacher has 30 years of experience or three and that budget cuts will force schools to lay off the "great teachers" with little seniority -- an approach that pits colleagues against each other in the budget crisis. The ads claims that seniority is the only factor in personnel decisions is false -- other factors like certification and qualifications matter.  Learn more about these kinds of tenure myths and how to fight them.

Rhee is a very confrontational figure. During her tenure in Washington, D.C., she fired 250 teachers and 500 teachers' aides. Later, an arbitrator ruled that the firing of tenured teachers was illegal. Rhee is a former teacher, but her own performance has come under fire in recent months for overstating her impact on student achievement as a teacher and administrator.