Nationally recognized school reformer Michelle Rhee was in Chicago on Tuesday, and she offered a strong endorsement of new Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who was disliked by most teachers in his previous district of Rochester.
"I would be very concerned if the mayor had chosen a superintendent who didn't have any controversy, because when you're doing the tough things, making the hard decisions, there's gonna be some controversy," Rhee said. "If you have everybody loving you that means you're probably not making the tough decisions."
Rhee, the former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor, isn't the sort of person to make nice; if you saw her in the documentary "Waiting for Superman," you saw her describe the schools there as "crap."
"Oftentimes, we as the adults are so busy trying to sugarcoat things and make people feel good, that we are ignoring the harsh realities," she said.
Rhee spoke at a private luncheon sponsored by the Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday. The Merc has donated millions to charter schools. Critics of charter schools say they threaten traditional neighborhood schools, but Rhee and other reformers say they bring competition and choice.
She also said that unionized teachers need to face the changes that are sweeping the country. Rhee's new group, "Students First," help lobby for education reform in Florida that goes much father than the bill recently passed the Illinois Senate.
"In Florida, what we were able to do was basically say: `We're getting rid of tenure and seniority and lockstep pay, and we're putting in place brand new accountability systems," she said.