At least one public school teacher adores Michelle Rhee -- Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher.
Actor/economist/game show host/pundit/Intelligent Design enthusiast Ben Stein, appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live” Tuesday night, said of Rhee, “She is the best. Washington, D.C., is my hometown. I love Washington. She has done miracles there. … I hope and pray she is kept on. She is an American saint.”
Saint Michelle is riding high, even in the wake of Adrian Fenty’s defeat. The release of the high-profile education documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,” from the producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” comes at a convenient time for Rhee. The attention for the film, which casts Rhee in a heroic role, has led to a series of television appearances that are a sort of nationwide job interview for her. In just the past week, commentators and officials in Atlanta, Newark, Montgomery County, and elsewhere have suggested snatching up Rhee when incoming mayor Vincent Gray lets her go.
Rhee’s own comments on King’s show last night were telling. Almost the first words out of her mouth were, “We too often let politics determine what’s happening in schools instead of thinking about what’s in the best interests of children.” Asked if she was “anti-union,” Rhee replied, “Part of what people talk about all the time is that if you question the union and their practices, all of a sudden you become ‘anti-union.’ I don’t think I’m anti-union. I think I’m pro-kid.”
Meanwhile, Courtland Milloy and Jonetta Rose Barras continue to debate D.C. education in their respective newspapers. In the Washington Post, Milloy writes that the IMPACT teacher evaluation guidelines cannot necessarily track the intangibles that made a teacher a good one. In the Washington Examiner, Barras says Gray should not use the excuse of the November election to put off a decision on Rhee. While “selection of some agency heads can wait,” she writes, the incoming mayor should make up his mind about Rhee now. “The future of thousands of children is at stake.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Despite Barras’s objection, Gray doesn’t want you to forget that he hasn’t actually been elected mayor yet. He has announced plans for eight town hall meetings, one in each ward, starting early next month. Mr. One City will hit the town with councilmembers and advisory neighborhood commissioners, and according to DCist, will also be taking questions online and on Twitter.
* U.S. Census data show D.C.’s poverty rate to be the fourth-highest in the nation, even though D.C. “was just one of two jurisdictions where household incomes increased last year,” the Examiner reports. While household income rose 2.8 percent, the poverty rate climbed as well -- to 18.4 percent. The polarization is “largely due to people with higher incomes moving into the District.” One in nine D.C. residents live at less than half of the national poverty level, with household incomes of less than $11,000 per year.
Washington City Paper’s Jason Cherkis says “the numbers are brutal.” More than one in three residents of Wards 7 and 8 live in poverty, as do 29 percent of children citywide. Meanwhile, Washington Business Journal notes that 29 area ZIP codes are on Forbes magazine’s list of the nation’s 500 Most Expensive.
* There’s good news for Democrats -- who could use some -- in Maryland, where a Washington Post poll shows Gov. Martin O’Malley opening “a significant lead” over the man he beat in 2006, Bob Ehrlich. O’Malley has an 11-point lead among likely voters, 52 percent to 41 percent. Ehrlich of course “has the support of almost every GOP voter in the state,” and he is also “winning independents by a wide margin.” But that might not be enough in a solidly Democratic state. Other recent polls have also shown O’Malley ahead, though by slimmer margins.
President Obama will hit the state for O’Malley next week -- it’s not like it’s a long trip -- and it could be a help. Obama took 62 percent of the Maryland vote in 2008, and though his popularity is down nationally, the Post poll shows Obama’s approval rating at 61 percent in the state. The Examiner quotes Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report saying, “I think Maryland is one place where President Obama can have a positive impact for Democrats.”
Ehrlich is trying to close the gap by pressing the issue of the removal of a pessimistic jobs report from a state website. E-mails released by the Ehrlich camp Tuesday show state labor secretary Alex Sanchez and advisors “congratulating each other on damage control, working to post a more optimistic document and discussing how to handle a reporter’s inquiries,” TBD reports. Maryland GOP chair Audrey Scott called on Sanchez to resign, but an O’Malley spokesman dismissed the notion.
* “If nominated, I will not run… well, maybe I will.” Scott Rolle filed to run for Frederick’s District 3A seat in Maryland’s House of Delegates, but stopped campaigning in July, after it was too late to have his name taken off the ballot, because an ongoing role in a History Channel television series was taking up his time. He won the Sept. 14 Republican primary anyway -- by nine votes -- and, the Frederick News-Post reports, now says he will “humbly accept the will of the voters” and resume his campaign.
* In an editorial this morning, the Post says D.C. needs to make some tough budget choices. The same could be said for Montgomery County. A deficit of at least $143 million is likely, and county budget director Joseph Beach says job cuts could follow. He told WTOP, “Reducing staffing size is certainly an option we’re considering very seriously.” The Examiner reports that some County Council members “now say that salaries, or at least benefits, should be curbed.” Silver Spring Councilwoman Valerie Ervin said, “Asking departments to continue to cut around the edges is never going to get us where we need to go.” Across the river, Arlington is also facing a budget gap of as much as $35 million, ARLnow reports.
* A Freedom of Information Act request on what anti-gang group Peaceoholics “has done in return for the millions in District funds” it has received “went nowhere,” City Paper reports.
* The Manassas News & Messenger reports that the Manassas City Council is backing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s plan to regulate abortion clinics.
* And Now, Anacostia writes that Al Jazeera English recently “filmed a documentary feature on the changes coming east of the Anacostia River.”
* According to DCist, WMATA wants to hear from you! Are you sure about that, WMATA?
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC