Gov. Robert Bentley\'s new education policy director has worked under some controversial regimes in high-profile efforts to turn around failing schools. Emily Schultz, 28, began her job as Bentley\'s education policy adviser in November, with a top priority of getting a law allowing charter schools passed during the next legislative session. Previously, the Birmingham native worked under Michelle Rhee, who became chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools after the mayor took control of the district. Schultz worked under Rhee as nearly two dozen schools were closed, the teacher pay scale was changed and hundreds of teachers, principals and administrators were fired. After the Washington job, Schultz worked as a consultant in Central Falls in Rhode Island, which made headlines in February 2010 when it fired all the teachers at a failing high school. The consulting group Schultz worked for, Mass Insight School Turnaround Group, went in after the mass firings to restructure the district. Bentley said that \"outside of the box\" mentality is exactly why he hired her. \"She has a tremendous amount of experience turning around failing schools, and she is from Alabama and wants to see Alabama do well,\" Bentley said. \"I try to think outside of the box. I don\'t like institutionalized thinking. We have enough of that in government.\" Schultz\'s position is a new one created by Bentley, who said he needed an education expert on his staff to guide him and to be a liaison to K-12, post-secondary and higher education. Schultz was raised in Birmingham and attended Carleton College in Minnesota, where she received a bachelor\'s degree in political science. She then became a teacher through Teach for America in Atlanta public schools, where she taught second grade for two years. Teach for America is a national program for recent college graduates who didn\'t major in education but commit to teaching for two years in a rural or urban school district. Teach for America teachers go through a six-week boot-camp-like training to learn how to teach. After her stint in the classroom, Schultz said she knew she wanted to make a career out of education and went back to school. She received her master\'s degree in education with an emphasis in public policy and organizational theory from Stanford University in June 2008. She immediately began working for Rhee. \"Michelle is fantastic,\" Schultz said. \"It\'s fast-paced working for her, but you know you\'re held accountable 100 percent of the time.\" Schultz\'s first order of business under the governor is getting legislation passed during the next legislative session that will allow for charter schools in Alabama. Charter schools Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that don\'t have to follow all of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to regular public schools. In return, the schools must produce certain results, which are set forth in each school\'s charter. The issue isn\'t new to Alabama. A bill was introduced during the 2010 legislative session to allow charter schools, but failed. At the time, the Legislature was controlled by Democrats, and the powerful Alabama Education Association opposed charter schools. But the Legislature is now controlled by Republicans, and a charter school bill will likely be a shoo-in, state officials say. \"We are really committed to charter schools,\" Schultz said. \"Alabama is at a unique point right now because we have the benefit of using what other states have learned about charter schools.\" Schultz said she will be working closely with the Alabama Board of Education, newly appointed state Superintendent Tommy Bice and the two-year college system to facilitate more discussions about the future of education. Those entities must have regular dialogues, she said, so students can have a more seamless transition between K-12 and the two-year and four-year colleges. More than a third of Alabama high school graduates who attend college in-state have to take remedial courses. Schultz wouldn\'t say whether she was a Republican or Democrat, but said she votes based on what a politician has to say about education. \"I\'m pretty laser-light focused on education and I vote on who is going to do the best thing for the kids,\" she said. Not everyone sees Schultz as a friend to public education. Larry Lee, former director of the Center for Rural Alabama and a strong advocate for rural schools, said Schultz\' limited experience has been in urban districts only. He wonders how that will translate in districts like Cleburne, Franklin and Greene counties. \"These challenges are very, very different than those in places like Vestavia, Hoover or Birmingham,\" he said. \"For example, there are 93 schools in the 15 Black Belt school systems and nearly 50 percent of them are identified as low-achieving by the state Department of Education. I don\'t believe for one minute that you can take something from Washington, D.C., and drop it in the middle of rural Alabama and expect it to work very well.\" The AEA also sees Schultz as a potential problem. \"I don\'t want to prejudge a person, but certainly her background suggests little experience in public education, which is troubling,\" said Paul Hubbert, longtime executive secretary for AEA, who announced his retirement recently but is still working part time for the teachers\' organization. \"You would expect someone to have experience when leading education policy.\" Schultz said public educators should not see her hiring as a slap in the face. She said teachers play an extremely important role in education, as they are the ones who shape children\'s minds. \"Teachers unions are an important part of the conversation, but they don\'t need to be the only part of the conversation,\" she said. \"We need to remember there are a lot of stakeholders.\"