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Michelle Rhee Hosts Teacher Town Hall in Philadelphia

By Dan Wing

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Area teachers were invited to a Town Hall meeting at Temple University's Student Faculty Center Auditorium Monday evening for a discussion on long-term solutions to the ongoing financial crisis surrounding the Philadelphia School District.

The event was hosted by the education reform group StudentsFirst, and headlining the panel was Michelle Rhee, who believes the next teachers' union contract should be one that pays based on teacher performance and takes the emphasis off of seniority. But protestors gathered out front disagreed.

Teacher Town Hall Meeting Protesters
(credit: Dan Wing/KYW)

Lisa Haver of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools was among the protesters gathered out front, and she feels that if Michelle Rhee really had the best interest of students in mind she would tell Governor Corbett to release the $45 million in funding earmarked for Philadelphia Schools.

"I think if she were really for students she would say to the governor we need that money right now, we'll work out the rest of the stuff at the negotiating table," Haver said.

Haver says having the Governor re-invest in public education would make the biggest change.

"To restore the cuts that he's made over the past 2-years, and to make sure that our school district, like others, has enough for students to learn - counselors, nurses, librarians, support staff," Haver said.

The protestors also say Rhee is anti-teacher, and anti-union -- claims she disputes. Rhee says what is best for students is having the best teachers, saying there are many out there who are great at their job and should be rewarded.

"And I also know, there are some not so effective teachers out there. And for those people, I believe that we have an obligation to try to quickly accelerate their practice so that they can become effective. But if they can't do that quickly, then we need to remove them," Rhee said.

She says the problem is making sure that teachers are effective.

"If we were able to ensure that every single child in this country were taught by a highly effective teacher every single day, that would go a very long way in making sure we are providing children with the education they deserve," Rhee said.

Rhee believes the next teachers union contract in Philadelphia should pay by merit, and devalue seniority during teacher placement, making it a model for school districts around the country.

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