Michelle Rhee to headline Mackinac Policy Conference

So-called school “reformer” Michelle Rhee will headline the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Policy Conference, held Wednesday through Friday on Mackinac Island.

Rhee is the founder of StudentsFirst, a fast-growing lobbying organization that aims to turn neighborhood public schools over to private, for-profit corporations.

Launched by Rhee in 2010 after she resigned as chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, StudentsFirst has spent millions of dollars in Michigan alone to lobby state lawmakers. The group is pushing for a number of policy changes that would weaken traditional public schools and strip away school employees’ collective bargaining rights — thus allowing private companies to come in and “fix” the school system.

“These quote-unquote reforms are untested, unproven and frankly they don’t work, which begs the question what they’re trying to do here,” Doug Pratt, MEA director of public affairs, told MLive.com, adding that people should pay close attention to who supports StudentsFirst and who would benefit from its agenda being implemented.

StudentsFirst recently received an $8-million donation from a foundation associated with Wal-Mart, the Los Angeles Times reported, leading some to wonder what role Wal-Mart would play in Rhee’s educational dystopia.

“Charter schools, for-profit entities, cyber school operators, all of these folks are making money off public schools,” Pratt said. “Michelle’s Rhee’s agenda is no different.”