‘Radical’ Michelle Rhee’s critics brand her a right-winger, too

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StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee is having a party for her new book, Radical: Fighting to put Students First, tonight at the Cornell Club, and critics of the education reformer will be distributing this mock-up of it.

The marked-up version of the book, which now reads "Right-Wing Radical," is produced by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a union-backed group.

They're also distributing a report card full of failing grades for Rhee on a host of issues relating to immigration, LGBT rights, gun control, "respecting unions" and "Corporate Agenda: The First Percent."

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On most of those issues, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools base their criticisms of Rhee on the positions taken by politicians endorsed by StudentsFirst, the education-reform group backed by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, among others.

The group hopes to piggyback on Rhee's book tour to present a critical view of her education agenda, and to use her to drive a wedge between Students First and its prospective Democratic supporters.

In New York, there is an ongoing debate about how to implement a teacher evaluation system. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington, D.C., is the national face of the education reform movement, which seeks to place greater emphasis on teacher evaluations, student test scores and charter schools, and loosen teacher seniority protections.

That puts her in direct opposition to the teachers unions and their allies, who in New York City include most of the Democratic candidates for mayor.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is generally friendly with the United Federation of Teachers, but has separated herself from Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson and John Liu on education at times, most recently by declining to attend a recent rally calling for a moratorium on school school closings.

Rhee was on "The Daily Show" last night, and host Jon Stewart asked her if she considered herself a polarizing or controversial figure.

Rhee, who presumably has fielded this question a lot, considering the title of her book, said she got branded that way by taking steps she considered to be common sense: closing low-performing schools, cutting bureaucracy and removing ineffective teachers.

"I thought what I was doing was bringing order and reason to the system. So, at the end, I feel that if bringing common sense to a dysfunction system is being a radical, than I'm okay being a radical and I think everyone should be one."

Stewart's liberal audience, from the sound of it, gave that statement polite applause.