Reaching across the aisle, he’s even willing to meet with Demonrats as possibles to fill cabinet positions. President-elect Donald Trump will meet Saturday with Michelle Rhee, a Democrat and former District of Columbia public schools leader who is considered in the running for secretary of education.
Rhee will meet with Trump, a Republican, at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is also meeting with former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, purportedly being considered for secretary of state.
Jason Miller, Trump communications director, confirmed the Rhee meeting Saturday morning with FoxNews.com.
Like Trump, Rhee has been a supporter of school choice, backing some public money for charter schools while the D.C. schools chancellor from 2007 to 2010.
Trump’s School Choice Policy released in September calls for his incoming administration to “immediately” redirect $20 billion in federal funds to school choice — in the form of block grants for an estimate 11 million school-age children living in poverty.
“We want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private, charter or magnet school that is best for them and their family,” the Trump campaign said in announcing the plan. “Each state will develop its own formula, but the dollars should follow the student.”
Rhee was hired to lead D.C. schools under Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty, who gave her essentially unprecedented autonomy to change the costly and under-performing city’s school system.
Known as a visionary education reformer, Rhee shot to national prominence after her picture appeared on the Dec. 2008 cover of Time magazine next to the headline “How to Fix America’s Schools.”
But the picture of Rhee holding a broom enraged teachers, union leaders and others who said the image made clear Rhee’s intentions to improve the school system by trying to sweep out the most experience teachers — in her effort to pay them based on performance, not tenure.
Trump also supports merit-based pay for teachers, which he and his campaign say rewards “great teachers … instead of the failed tenure system that currently exists, which rewards bad teachers and punishes good ones.”
However, Rhee, the daughter of Korean immigrants, has in the past been a supporter of the Common Core educational standards that Trump has frequently called a “total disaster.”
During Rhee’s tenure in the District of Columbia, graduation rates and standardized test scores in math and reading improved. But she increasingly lost the support of parents and others who complained that she made such decisions as firing teachers and principals and closing schools with little public input.
Rhee unapologetically fired 241 teachers in 2010, the same year Fenty lost his reelection bid to Vince Gray and she resigned, in what many considered the city’s return to ward politics.
Trump is also scheduled to meet Saturday with Betsy Davos, a wealth donor, school choice advocate and the former leader of the Michigan Republican Party. Davos has also been mentioned as a possible education secretary candidate.
Trump met earlier this week with Eva Moskowitz, a charter school leader from New York. However, she reportedly dropped out of the competition to run the Education Department after meeting with Trump earlier this week.
Rhee is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a Democrat, and leads the board of St. Hope Public Schools, a Sacramento-based charter school group.