Squashing speculation that she could become America’s top schools official, Sacramento first lady Michelle Rhee said on Tuesday she has no interest in being President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of education.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Rhee said “I am not pursuing a position with the Administration.” The disavowal came just days after Rhee joined the procession of potential appointees meeting with Trump in New Jersey.
“I have appreciated the opportunity to share my thoughts on education with the PEOTUS,” Rhee, a Democrat, said in the statement, before offering a conciliatory response to critics.
“Interestingly many colleagues warned me against doing so,” Rhee said of her decision to discuss a Cabinet appointment with Trump. “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.”
If she had gotten the job, Rhee would have been a controversial pick – and not just because she has a different party affiliation from the president-elect. She also became a divisive figure during her time leading the Washington, D.C., public school system.
In that role, she became the national face of an education movement that favors more charter schools and seeks to better gauge teacher performance using measures like test scores, which could then be used to fire ineffective educators. Those efforts won Rhee both praise from deep-pocketed donors and the enmity of teachers unions.
She has also embraced a set of national curriculum standards called the Common Core. After initially enjoying wide bipartisan support, the framework became a target for conservative critics who warned of a federal takeover of local schools. Trump called it “a very bad thing.”
Rhee is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who shares her support for charter schools. She chairs the board St. Hope Public Schools, a network of charters launched by Johnson.
After departing her post as chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools, Rhee founded an education advocacy organization called StudentsFirst, which has clashed with Sacramento’s dominant teachers unions. The organization was initially headquartered in Sacramento, but its president said earlier this year it planned to move out of its current office space.