By Francisco Gonzalez, JMI Development Director
Governor-elect Rick Scott has added the former Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system, Michelle Rhee, to his education transition team. A nationally recognized education reformer, Rhee was run out of our federal school district by the teacher unions. As ABC News has noted, this is an interesting time for her to take her talents to Florida. It was just two months ago that Rhee announced she was stepping down from the district’s troubled government school system.As Chancellor, Rhee’s aggressive efforts to reform DC schools often clashed with the teacher unions. She tried to purge incompetent teachers and reward good ones with a merit pay system similar to the one passed by the Florida Legislature this past spring – hers was arguably bolder. In 2008, Rhee sought to renegotiate how teachers are compensated. She offered teachers a choice: being paid up to $140,000 a year based on student achievement, but losing tenure; or, retaining tenure, but earning much smaller pay raises. This measure was strongly opposed by the teacher’s unions.The Florida Legislature’s Senate Bill 6 was ultimately vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist, but it’s expected that the Legislature will take it up again, perhaps with some revisions, and pass a new bill in the 2011 Session. Tapping Rhee for his education transition team may be another signal Governor-elect Scott is sending that he plans to sign a bill that will put free-market principles of merit pay into action should a bill reach his desk.Over the past decade, Florida has been the place to be for innovative education reforms that are proving to lift graduation rates, provide students and parents with more choices, reduce costs to the state, and make our students more competitive in a global environment. It’s no wonder Rhee is excited about joining the Scott team to continue to be a part of Florida’s bold education reforms. Proponents of Florida education (probably not including the FEA) should be just as excited.