Education Expert Michelle Rhee Criticized for Speaking at Education-Related Conference

In June, former D.C. school chief Michelle
Rhee will speak at a
conference of for-profit colleges in Las Vegas

There are a lot of perfectly good reasons to talk smack about
the record of for-profit schools—many
suffer from low graduation rates and high debt burdens, nearly all
are powered by billions of taxpayer dollars

But the Washington
 has gone into full panty-bunching red alert

over former public official and current head of an advocacy
organization accepting a speaking gig. The thrust of the argument
seems to be that this is the smoking gun we have all been waiting
for: Rhee, an education reformer, is willing take money to tell a
bunch of other people who work in the same industry what she
thinks. Which is
, by the way:

I plan to tell the for-profit colleges that they need to do a
better job of making sure their students are getting a good
education, are graduating with meaningful degrees, and are able to
do so without being saddled with unreasonable debt.

But the problems aren’t just academic. Some of these schools
seem to be engaged in downright
malicious behavior
, cravenly taking advantage of students
trying to get a better education and a better job. An investigation
by the Government
Accountability Office
 in 2010 looked into recruiting
practices at 15 for-profit colleges and found outright cases of
fraud at four. Moreover, they found that officials at every single
one of the colleges investigated lied or misrepresented the
programs offered in order to convince students to enroll. That’s
wrong, and I plan to tell them so. These schools need to focus on
getting the best outcomes for their students — the people relying
on and trusting these schools to provide a high-quality

And here’s the supposed gotcha,
summed up by David Halperin

“She staked her career on the concept of shutting down
underperforming, bad schools,” Halperin writes. “And now she will
address a room full of them.”

She has spent her career addressing rooms full of
underperforming bad schools—most of them in her jurisdiction in

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