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Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has landed a new client for his Mercury Public Affairs firm: StudentsFirst, the education advocacy group headed by Michelle Rhee.

The contract with the former Democratic lawmaker is yet another sign that Rhee plans to push her brand of education policy in California, even though unions and many Democrats reject her ideas -- and her attempt last year to get a bill introduced in the Legislature failed.

Núñez will be advising Rhee's group on its political and legislative strategy for California.

"My role here is one of helping them provide strategy, and to the extent necessary, direction in helping to solve some of these issues and how to get the job done," Núñez said in a phone interview with The Bee.

"There are some things you will see in the next few weeks and months that will make it very clear that StudentsFirst is coming to the table."

Rhee advocates in favor of charter schools, publicly-funded vouchers for children to attend private school, linking teachers' job performance with their students' test scores and doing away with seniority as a criteria during lay-offs. She founded StudentsFirst as a lobbying organization aimed at curtailing the power of teachers unions in state and local politics. The group poured $250,000 into backing three school board candidates in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the area Núñez represented as a lawmaker.

"Fabian has a long record of fighting for our children, and his leadership and guidance will be critical to our efforts to ensure that all California students - regardless of their background, their zip code, or their parents' income - receive the great education they deserve," Rhee said in a statement.

Photo credit: Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, 2008. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer



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