News & Politics

Michelle Rhee Says She Won’t Be Joining Trump’s Cabinet

Photograph via the Commonwealth Club.

Former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is taking herself out of the running to be the secretary of education in President-elect Donald Trump‘s administration next year. Rhee, who ran the District’s schools from 2007 to 2010, made her decision public in a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am not pursuing a position with the Administration but I have appreciated the opportunity to share my thoughts on education with the PEOTUS,” Rhee writes.

Rhee and her husband, Sacramento, California Mayor Kevin Johnson, met with Trump last Saturday at the president-elect’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, days after her name was first floated as a possible education secretary in a Republican-led government. The Trump transition team’s website contains a very limited description of its education policy, but it emphasizes charter schools and private-school vouchers, two programs Rhee championed while serving under Democratic DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. They also align on winning concessions from teachers’ unions. One education advocate told BuzzFeed on Monday that Trump selecting Rhee would be a “fuck you” to unions. However, Rhee and Trump may have diverged on Common Core, the state-based systems of grade-school standards that she has championed and Trump has called a “total disaster.”

With Rhee no longer a candidate for the education post, the last name remaining on Trump’s rumored short-list is Betsy DeVos, a Republican fundraiser and charter-school advocate from Michigan.

Even though Rhee won’t be in Trump’s cabinet, her statement wishes him well and—in typical Rhee fashion—singes those who might disagree with her by suggesting  Trump’s opponents are wishing misfortune on American students.

“Interestingly many colleagues warned me a against doing so,” Rhee’s statement continues. “They are wrong. Mr. Trump won the election. Our job as Americans is to want him to succeed. Wishing for his failure would be wanting the failure of our millions of American children who desperately need a better education.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.