A spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday mentioned education activist and Sacramento first lady Michelle Rhee as a possible candidate for secretary of education under the new administration.
Jason Miller, Trump’s communications adviser since June, told an MSNBC interviewer, “Michelle Rhee, I’ve seen mentioned,” in response to a question about women and minorities who may be considered for top jobs by Trump.
Miller said he had heard Rhee’s name mentioned in public reports, but did not confirm that Trump or anyone in his transition team had spoken to Rhee.
Rhee did not respond to an email request for comment this week.
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Rhee gained prominence as an education reformer while she was chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., from 2007-10. In 2010, she formed StudentsFirst, a states-based education reform organization that advocates for school-choice initiatives and has been active in elections.
Rhee has been a strong proponent of charter schools and currently chairs the board of St. Hope Public Schools, a Sacramento-based charter school organization started by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
She supports the Common Core curriculum that is unpopular with many conservatives, and which Trump has vowed to end. Like Johnson a Democrat, Rhee split with the party in 2013 over her support of school-choice vouchers.
Formerly high profile, she has largely kept out of public view in recent years. During the 2014 election, Rhee championed a local measure on behalf of Johnson to increase the power of the Sacramento mayor’s office. That strong-mayor effort failed at the ballot box.
Rhee reportedly splits her time between Sacramento and Tennessee, where her children live. During the recent election, she tweeted a photo of the long lines at her Tennessee polling place.
Rhee has been active in Johnson’s political career and has said they share professional ambitions. Insiders describe both Johnson and Rhee as intensely driven, working long hours and expecting staff to do the same.
“Kevin and I view our goals in life and public service as a team,” Rhee told The Sacramento Bee in 2014. “He was right there with me when we created (StudentsFirst) and has worked alongside me throughout these past four years. I am excited to continue working side by side on these new opportunities we have.”
Two other candidates mentioned for education secretary under Trump – presidential contender Ben Carson and charter-school founder Eva Moskowitz – have declined consideration, according to published reports.
Crystal Strait, chief of staff for Johnson, declined to comment about any contact between Rhee and the Trump administration.
A spokesman for St. Hope was not immediately available.