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D.C. Teachers Protest At School Vouchers Conference

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Teachers protest outside a school vouchers conference Monday, where former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will speak Tuesday.
Matt Laslo
Teachers protest outside a school vouchers conference Monday, where former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will speak Tuesday.

She's no longer employed by the city, but mention Rhee's name and it elicits polar opposite responses, and the vast majority of the crowd Monday isn't happy with her tenure.

While chancellor, Rhee closed schools, renegotiated compensation packages with the teachers union and fired hundreds of teachers. Rhee also supports voucher programs.

Nathan Saunders, the head of the Washington Teachers' Union, says Rhee's tough stance with unions is spreading across the United States.

"She certainly did bring a new furor to the movement," Saunders says.

Test scores increased under Rhee, but an investigation has raised questions about whether officials tampered with those tests.

"What were concerned about is that there are a lot of voucher programs around the country, and those voucher programs have not been proven to be true," says Michael Morrill, with the Pennsylvania group Keystone Progress.

A very small group of voucher supporters stopped by too. Brendan Steinhauser, of the conservative group Freedom Works, says vouchers are one of many educational reforms that should be on the table.

"It's important because I think it injects competition into the school system," Steinhauser says.

Rhee is slated to speak at the conference Tuesday morning.

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