Pence and DeVos and Prince–Oh My!

Want the Super Short Version?

This post is very detailed. It contains a great deal of heavily referenced information. I walk you through a lot of important facts. If you don’t need the details about why we should not support Betsy DeVos, you can simply read my ultra short: ¡Call to Action! post. Naturally, I’m partial to this extended version, which is the product of a tremendous amount of time and careful research.

Short Video Overview


Introducing the Characters

The Prince Family
Betsy DeVos - Caricature Creative Commons - By: DonkeyHotey - Flickr
Betsy DeVos – Caricature Creative Commons – By: DonkeyHotey – Flickr

Betsy was born to Elsa and Edgar Prince1 in Holland, Michigan, on January 8, 1958. Her father, reported to have invented the car sun visor that lights up, became a billionaire industrialist in the small town. The Prince children attended the elite, mostly-white, Holland Christian High School. Betsy went on to graduate from Calvin College2 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Younger brother Erik, born on June 6, 1969, also made a name for himself. He became a Navy Seal. He later bought 6,000 acres of the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina and set up his own school, Blackwater, for special operations training.3 Erik was very successful.

But in 2014, four of his Blackwater guards were convicted in US Court for killing  17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad in 2007. “In 2009, two former Blackwater employees alleged in federal court that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader.”4 In 2009 the company rebranded.

The DeVos Family

In 1980 Betsy married Dick DeVos. Her father-in-law, Richard DeVos, Sr., is the co-founder of Amway.5 Author Jeremy Scahill described their marriage as if it were a merger of monarchies in old Europe that “swiftly emerged as platinum-level contributors to far-right Christian causes and political figures.”6 They have been very active in Republican politics in the state of Michigan. Betsy even served as the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. Dick unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state in 2006.

Why all the fuss? Well, Betsy, of course, is Trump’s cabinet pick to run the US Department of Education. More on that later. A lot more… But, you thought this blog was about Mike Pence? Ta Dah!

The Pence Family

Nancy and Ed Pence, Jr. had Mike on June 7, 1959, in Columbus, Indiana. Ed ran a group of gas stations in town. Mike went to public school and earned a law degree. He says he became a born again Christian when he attended a Christian music festival in Kentucky.7

As we’ve mentioned numerous times at PenceWatch.US, Mike states frequently in a variety of ways that he takes his faith very seriously. He became a talk radio host, a US Senator, and the Governor of the state of Indiana.

The Pence/Prince/DeVos Connection

So, what does Betsy DeVos and her brother Erik have to do with Mike Pence—the subject of our website? Well, in a moment we will follow some of the money–a lot of money, actually…

It’s also curious to note that “In December 2007, three months after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, Pence and his Republican Study Committee, which served “the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives,” organized a gathering to welcome Prince to Washington.”8 This affair was a bit of a hero warrior’s welcome home.

In addition to perhaps having some vigilante Christian crusader overtones, Pence and Prince share some deeply held religious dogma. They are anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-separation of church and state, anti-public schools, and radically pro-religion. In fact, their particular brand of religious fervor is increasingly being referred to as Christian supremacist. And both Erik and sister Betsy are vice presidents of their daddy’s (now deceased: 1995) foundation’s war chest. But, be patient… More on that later.

Religion

I have never in any way suggested that personal faith practice is a bad thing. I haven’t suggested that because I don’t think that. However, to force others to live by your particular brand of faith practice? Now that is a bad thing. Faith practice, or the avoidance thereof, is a personal matter.

However, when one’s limited world view has been successful for them, it’s really easy to think that those personal beliefs are therefore the best answer, perhaps even the only answer, for everyone’s problems and difficulties. Certainly, Pence, Prince, and DeVos believe this with fervent, evangelistic zeal. And Pence, Prince, and DeVos lay claim to a deeply-held desire to use their money and the political power that money affords them to bend the knee of every American to their particular brand of religious will. Their personal ego, like the incalculable ego of Donald Trump, blinds and binds them, not their faith. They and they alone… Isn’t that a hallmark of most religious extremists?!

Pence is deeply committed to turning the nation into a theocracy. The Prince Foundation also shares that vision; hence, they generously fund him. The DeVos Foundation is expressly committed to “confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”9 All three of these, perhaps well-meaning people, believe the separation of church and state must go. Betsy’s husband even stated,

This Is Not A Joke Nor Fake News:
“The church—which ought to be, in our view, far more central to the life of the community—has been displaced by the public school,” Dick DeVos said. “We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities than to have that circle of church and school and family much more tightly focused and built on a consistent worldview.” [emphasis mine]10

It certainly was in Betsy’s life, and just look at how well things turned out for her! She’s a billionaire and about to take over the US DOE.11

Now, let’s think about that for just a second. He just clearly articulated indoctrination, not education. He stated this was their view, not just his own. I understand him to be clearly stating that his wife and he believe in indoctrinating children with a tightly focused consistent worldview, not teaching children to think. This statement alone should send parents screaming to the phones to call senators and demand Betsy DeVos not be confirmed as the secretary of the US Department of Education. It’s not the US Department of Indoctrination, YET!

We are a diverse group, we Americans. Just whose consistent, tightly focused worldview do they intend on pumping into our children’s heads? Oh, my bad. The one, true, consistent, tightly focused worldview: theirs! Grab your child and your cell phone now! Call your senator! Oh, but there is just so much more…

Money

Betsy’s father established the Elsa and Edgar Prince Foundation. As I mentioned earlier, Erik Prince serves as a vice president of that Foundation. Betsy is also listed as a vice president of the foundation according to the foundation’s own tax documents through at least 2014. I stress this fact because she denied it in her confirmation hearings.12

Completely independent of Richard DeVos, Sr.’s charitable giving, The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation was formed in 1989. In 2015, the DeVos Foundation made $11.6 million in charitable contributions, bringing the couple’s lifetime charitable giving to $139 million. Forbes ranked the DeVos family #24 on its 2015 list of America’s top givers. Betsy’s father-in-law was listed by Forbes in 2016 as having a net worth of $5.1 billion, making him America’s 88th wealthiest individual.13

So Where Does the Money Go?

Between July 2003 and July 2006, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave at least $670,000 to the Family Research Council and $531,000 to Focus on the Family14, headed by the virulently anti-gay James Dobson. (Keep in mind that our schools must protect and educate all students, not just the straight ones.) The foundation is also a major donor to Calvin College.15

Erik Prince has long given money to Pence’s political campaigns, and, toward the end of the 2017 presidential election, he contributed $100,000 to the Trump/Pence Super PAC, Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother kicked in another $50,000.16 This is nothing out of the ordinary for Prince or his mother.

But Betsy’s foundation doesn’t just support Calvin College. This from Mother Jones’ careful reporting on their contributions:

“All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.

While the Princes would go on to contribute to some of the country’s most powerful far-right religious groups, like the Family Research Council, Betsy and Dick DeVos eventually focused on funding education reform groups and think tanks pushing for vouchers, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars through their foundation to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state in public schools [bold mine], including:

  • Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty: … The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $1.29 million from 2000 to 2014, and the Prince Foundation donated at least $550,000.
  • The Foundation for Traditional Values: … The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed $232,390 from 1999 to 2014.
  • Focus on the Family: Both the DeVoses and the Princes have been key supporters of Focus on the Family, which was founded by the influential evangelical leader James Dobson. … The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave $275,000 to Focus on the Family from 1999 to 2001 but hasn’t donated since; it gave an additional $35,760 to the group’s Michigan and DC affiliates from 2001 to 2010. The Prince Foundation donated $5.2 million to Focus on the Family and $275,000 to its Michigan affiliate from 2001 to 2014. (It also gave $6.1 million to the Family Research Council, which has fought against same-sex marriage and anti-bullying programs—and is listed as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC used to be a division of Focus on the Family before it became an independent nonprofit, with Dobson serving on its board, in 1992.)

For the past 2 decades, Betsy DeVos has rammed vouchers down the throats of Michiganders—that is: using their tax payer dollars to pay for private and religious schools. She has now, with Mike Pence’s help, pushed this issue to the center of the Republican Party’s education agenda. She accomplished this in large part through the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based think tank, which the whole DeVos clan has heavily funded. (See the chart below from MotherJones)17   Oh, and that footnote is crazy important! Their agenda has been very carefully planned! You simply don’t leave the quest for tens of billions of dollars to haphazard chance.

Source: Mother Jones- The Family that Gives Together
Source: Mother Jones- The Family that Gives Together

Results of Betsy and Mike’s Well-funded Utopia

If you thought this must have gone so well in Michigan and in Indiana, Pence and DeVos want to do it for the whole country, you would be completely and utterly wrong. I suspect the reason they want to do this for the whole country is to enrich their good friends despite the fact that this has already proven to be a catastrophe for children!

Michigan

With Betsy leading the charge in her home state, Michigan has been at the heart of the for-profit management of charter schools. A whopping 80% of the state’s schools, more than anywhere else in the nation, are run by for-profit organizations.18 And because of Betsy’s lobbying skills and money, these schools have no oversight and no accountability to the tax payers.19

With $1.1 billion in state tax dollars going to charter schools20 in a program widely regarded as a complete failure, DeVos was asked in her senate confirmation hearings21 about her unyielding support for Detroit’s failed charter program. She reiterated her indefatigable support for this horrendous failure. Your heart will break when you read what a tragic, unspeakably hideous mess Detroit’s schools have become because they lost their funding to charter schools who have no accountability at all.22 The end result: schools for the wealthy, and schools, if you can call them that, for the poor and disabled. You find lots of choice, but almost none of it is any good, and no one is held accountable. It’s not just “not better,” it’s flabbergastingly worse than ever unless you’re white and entitled!

Indiana

Pence, with Betsy leading the charge in 2011, championed and significantly expanded charter schools in Indiana. Only 5 years into the unprecedented expansion of charter schools, Indian has seen the following outcomes:23

  • Half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools, meaning that taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill.
  • Just 3 percent of new recipients of vouchers in 2015 qualified for them because they lived in the boundaries of F-rated public schools.
  • “Public schools will get first shot at every child,” then-Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said at the time. “If the public school delivers and succeeds, no one will seek to exercise this choice.” When he became governor, Mike eliminated the requirement that children attend public school before receiving vouchers and lifted the cap on the number of recipients. The income cutoff was raised, and more middle-class families became eligible.
  • According to state data, more than 300 Indiana private schools accepted vouchers last year. Voucher recipients composed more than 75 percent of students at 44 of those schools, most of which identify themselves as Catholic, Lutheran or Christian.
  • Some research has found that after using vouchers to transfer from public to private schools, Indianapolis students experienced no change in language arts performance and saw a decline in their math performance.
  • Even as vouchers have shored up many parochial schools, public schools have been squeezed: State education spending has not kept up with inflation, and still is not as high, in real dollars, as it was in 2011
  • Glenda Ritz, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, said Indiana has spent nearly $375 million to date on a voucher program that has yet to be evaluated.
  • Private schools set their own admissions standards and can reject students for any reason, leading to concerns about segregation not just by race and class, but also by faith, ability and disability.

The Plan

Trump’s education proposal, modeled after Betsy’s debacle in Michigan and Mike’s massive expansion in Indiana, calls for $20 billion to help families leave “failing government schools” for private, religious, or charter schools. Now do you see why Betsy’s family of foundations have been pouring donations into the voucher program? It’s an investment that will pay out in the tens of billions of dollars!

I personally see this as another bailout, this bailout saving and expanding private, for-profit, typically religious schools. As public schools are more widely viewed positively and as middle America is shriveling up, the middle class can no longer afford or justify sending their children to private schools. As those private school enrollments drop, these for-profit schools need revenue. Solution: starve America’s public schools of their funding and send those tax dollars to unaccountable private schools. 

I have a really novel idea. Let’s invest $20 billion in the nation’s public schools. Let’s also hold politicians accountable for their failure to create the very real possibility of the American Dream for every single American (Call it No American Left Behind!), instead, blaming their failure on the nation’s dedicated, hard working teachers. (Actually, politicians aren’t failing at all. They are very effectively doing the bidding of the flabbergastingly wealthy.)

Wait. I thought the nation couldn’t afford pay raises for teachers, increased funding for teacher training programs, decreasing the pupil-teacher ratio, repairing unsafe and dilapidated classrooms, increasing school safety… Yet we can afford to spend $20 billion to send children to private, religious, or charter schools? And those schools can deny enrollment to anyone they don’t want and will face no accountability for student performance?

But wait, if private, for-profit, Christian schools can exclude the “undesirables”—the children born with low IQs, the children with mental and physical disabilities, the children with behavior disorders, the children that are malnourished, the children who can’t speak English, the children who must hop from school to school because they have to move every 30 days to get the $99 move-in rent special their single working parent can afford, the children who aren’t “born again” and are therefore of questionable moral character, the children who drink or dance or listen to rock music, and on and on… then their academic success rate would be higher. Selective enrollment! But this democracy is responsible to all of our children—every single last one of them! How can private religious schools, of all people, abandon their civic duty and their moral obligations to everyone in our democracy?!

Let me be sure I understand this. Since many of these schools are run for profit, we’re just cutting a check for $20 billion to wealthy business men to run schools for white, more affluent families while public schools do without that very funding? We can afford to make the wealthy corporate owners of these schools even wealthier with tax payer dollars? Explain that to me. These for-profit companies want all of the privileges but accept none of the responsibilities or difficult challenges.

And, I’m just curious: Betsy and her friends, are they invested in any of these private for-profit charter school companies that make a profit off of the money designated for the nation’s children’s education? Will they (and have they already?) profit from this plan to privatize public schools?

I need an explanation about how a for-profit corporation can do a better job for every single student in the country than our non-profit public schools do. Remember, they have to make certain that every single child performs at or above grade level. They have to be certain that every single child advances at least one academic year. They can’t turn a single child away for any reason–not one. How can this be done while keeping investors happy with the growth in profit margins? How?!

Let me guess: Four teachers teach a school of 800 high school students who sit in front of old computer terminals? I kid you not when I say I have seen that with my own eyes in one of these for-profit charter schools! So, that’s how they turn a profit to keep investors happy? How do you focus on student academic performance and increasing profit margins at the same time?

Answer: You don’t! You focus exclusively on profit margins!

Profit margins will continue to rise as their lobbying efforts strengthen during the Trump administration, and then, just before it all falls apart like it did in Michigan these “investors” dump their investments, cashing out of the big gamble with literally billions of dollars that were for our children–yes, the money belongs to the children!

And then what of all the failed schools that will litter the whole nation? What of the completely decentralized mess that no one can fix because the for-profit corporations bellied up? This smells to me a whole lot like the financial meltdown for which no one in the banking industry was held accountable. They just walked away with fat bonuses, and their lackeys in Washington let them get away with it. And now we are being told we should do this in the nation’s education sector?

No! No! No!

This is a religious and financial scam of the highest order. This is an assault on the separation of church and state. This is an assault on public schools. This is an assault on the children with learning disabilities. This is an assault on the people who actually do pay their taxes. This will gut the public schools of our nation. This will destroy our public schools, once the envy of the world. And you know what–that’s exactly what Betsy and her ilk want. And they want to make a lot of money in the process of robbing it from the children and their hard working parents.

It’s not good enough that those with extreme wealth don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes. They want to put your hard-earned tax money for education in their private bank accounts!

In the Name of God

Remember Betsy said she wants to further God’s kingdom on earth. She literally said that! Remember, she wants your community to be centered around the church, not the school, and more tightly focused and built on a consistent worldview—her world view. The morality police are coming after your children! Mark these words! This is their agenda, their so-called I’m-a-“Christian”-first-and-foremost agenda: get the kids! Indoctrinate the children!

Make children into their brand of Christians. Indoctrinate them. Make them a Mike Pence-styled “Christian first, then a conservative, then a Republican, in that order” then, maybe somewhere down the list Americans?

This is their language, and it reveals what and how they think. Parents should be frightened that their children are going to be proselytized by education. But that’s the ultimate goal: bringing God’s kingdom to earth. These are the words I heard growing up: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Forget about the poor, the non-white, the disabled, those with little or no possible economic future. Take everything they have in their schools and give it to the kids that matter–our kids, the good kids, the white kids, the entitled kids.

Unlike their ridiculous, non-existent, homophobic “gay agenda,” these religious zealots really are coming after the nation’s children and they plan to take your tax dollars en route!

About that Confirmation Hearing

In her confirmation hearing DeVos made it clear she doesn’t understand the basics of the federal policy that has governed all public education in the United States for the past 17 years: ACCOUNTABILITY. She doesn’t understand it because her foundation has extensively and successfully lobbied to avoid accountability in her for-profit corporate schools’ agenda. How can such a person run the nation’s schools?!

Senators were severly limited in the number of questions and the amount of time they had to ask them during the hearing. Why? What are Pence and Trump and DeVos trying to hide from the American people?! Here are some critical reads about her ineptness in the so-brief-as-to-be-all-but-meaningless confirmation process.

I’m a Christian First and Foremost?

Really, Mike?! Really? How dare you and those at whose economic pleasure you serve! You would take tax payers’ money designated for the education of the nations’ children, all of the children, and funnel it off to your rich, for-profit buds? You would leave the poor and special needs to make do with the dregs that are left?

That’s utterly despicable! You are no different than your greedy boss! Have the decency not to drag the name of Christ into the filthy greed he so opposed.

Readers, You Must Act Now

The senate votes to decide if DeVos will get the position on Tuesday morning, January 31, 2017 at 10:00am.

Readers, forget those meaningless gimmicks on Facebook: “Click here to register your protest…” Or “Sign the petition to tell them you won’t stand for…”

The only thing those accomplish is neutralizing your effectiveness to do something that might actually make a difference.24

In my opinion, Betsy DeVos is wholly unfit to be the Secretary of the US Department of Education. I hope I’ve made my case without offending. I believe in faith practice! But I believe it is a private, personal matter, and should never fall under the purview of government or receive tax payer money! The two (church and state) must remain separate. This is bedrock! And I apologize that in trying to make this as short as possible I’ve left out many major points.

Take Action That Counts!

You can find your Senator’s Washington office’s phone number at this US Senate website. Just select your state. You have 2 senators for your state. Call them both!

(Or you can call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Tell the operator your zip code, and the operator will connect you with your Senator’s office. Remember the name of the senator’s office with whom you are connected.)

All you have to do is 1) tell the person in your senator’s office that you are a constituent of Senator [his/her name] and 2) you would like him/her to vote against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation—that you oppose the nomination. You don’t have to tell them why. Short and sweet is best. Everyone’s busy, including you.

Remember, you have 2 senators. So, be sure to call them both.

Do this for our nation’s children, for the separation of church and state, and to prevent the privatization of democracy’s most precious asset: our public schools. Protect your children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and the whole future of the nation we all love.

mm
Tim was born at the end of the post-world war baby boom, was a child of the ’60’s, a teenager during the Vietnam War, and a young man when economics reportedly began to trickle down. Now, six decades under the expanding belt, he lives in a post-truth world: science and truth are just a passé inconvenience studied in last-century university. He reaches for his smartphone in a dumbworld to take a stupidselfie. [Fake camera sound] Oh! Well, that will never do! What’s that app that removes wrinkles and blemishes? Never mind. He doesn’t have to remember. He just asks Siri… He’s a post-truther now! I’m just saying: he’s got questions. Real questions. And someone really needs to look into this, really look into this… That’s all I’m saying.

  1. Their religious Dutch ancestry is of significant importance to the people they became. For some insightful information about the Dutch heritage, who their ancestors were, and why they came to Holland, Michigan, 150 years ago, I invite you to read Kristina Rizga’s, January 17, 2017, piece in Mother Jones: Betsy Devos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build “God’s Kingdom”. It’s a fascinating piece that, in part, reflects on how we become the people we become. 

  2. Founded in 1876 and a private religious institution that’s part of the Christian Reformed Church 

  3. In 2007 Jeremy Scahill wrote a book about this school and its work entitle, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army about Blackwater. It’s an interesting read. 

  4. Source: Politico: How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take over Michigan Politics, by Zack Stanton, January, 15, 2017.. 

  5. “An American company that uses a multi-level marketing model to sell a variety of products, primarily in the health, beauty, and home care markets.” Wikipedia article citing Xardel, Dominique (1993).

    The Direct Selling Revolution. Understanding the Growth of the Amway Corporation. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-0-631-19229-9.

    and “About Amway – Global Leader in Direct Selling”. Amway.com. June 23, 2011. Archived from the original on April 18, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2011.

    and “The Times 100 Business Case Studies: Amway – Direct selling and supply chain”. Replay.web.archive.org. February 22, 2008. Retrieved July 9,2011.[dead link

  6. Source: The Intercept: Mike Pence Will Be the Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in u.s. History by Jeremy Scahill, November 15, 2016. 

  7. “For Pence, it was the introduction in college to a group of young evangelical Christians who espoused a much more personal and direct relationship with Jesus that led the Indiana native to become a born-again Christian.

    His conversion happened at a Christian music festival in Kentucky. ‘I gave my life to Jesus Christ and that’s changed everything,’ he has told reporters.

    Since then, he has attended an Indiana mega-church and has at times called himself an ‘evangelical Catholic’, a term that has perplexed some Catholic scholars and Vatican experts.”

    —Source: The Guardian: Kaine and Pence: Two Catholic-Inspired Visions With Little Else in Common, by Stephanie Kirchgaessner, October 4, 2016 

  8. Source: The Intercept: Live Blog Vice Presidential Debate by Jon Schwartz, October 4, 2016 

  9. Source: Mother Jones: Betsy Devos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build “God’s Kingdom” by Kristina Rizga, January. 17, 2017 

  10. —Source: Politico: How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics by Zack Stanton 

  11. They actually think the godless public schools have replaced the churches as the center of community. If that were even remotely true, where would the fault lie? And the solution would be to legislate faith practice? 

  12. Source: Trump Education Nominee Betsy Devos Lied to the Senate by Jeremy Scahill, January 18, 2017.

    I’m certain she was just presenting “alternative facts…” We know Pence lies. We know Trump lies. I guess we now know Betsy lies too. 

  13. Sources: Wikipedia article: “About”. Grand Rapids: Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Retrieved July 5. 2013.

    and Docksai, Rick (March 1, 2016). “School Choice, But Much More: Making Sense of DeVos Family Philanthropy”. Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 19 January 2017.

    and Martinez, Shandra (January 9, 2017). “Dick and Betsy DeVos lift the veil on their $139M in philanthropy”. MLive. Retrieved 19 January 2017.

    and Savhuk, Katia (2015). “America’s Top 50 Givers: Meet the philanthropists who gave away the most money in 2015”. Forbes. Retrieved 19 January 2017.  

  14. Source: Wikipedia article: The Bush administration’s ties to Blackwater, by Ben Van Heuvelen, Salon, October 2, 2007. 

  15. Source: Wikipedia article: The Bush administration’s ties to Blackwater, by Ben Van Heuvelen, Salon, October 2, 2007. 

  16. Source: Federal Election Commission Tax Schedule a Itemized Receipts 

  17. “In the mid-’90s, Mackinac leadership suggested a long-term strategy on how to make unpopular voucher policies more palatable for mainstream America. Its then-senior vice president, Joseph Overton, developed what became known as the Overton Window, a theory of how a policy that’s initially considered extreme might over time be normalized through gradual shifts in public opinion. Education policies were placed on a liberal-conservative continuum, with the far left representing ‘Compulsory indoctrination in government schools’ and the far right representing ‘No government schools.’

    “Charter schools became the main way voucher advocates tried to introduce school choice to public school supporters, with the aim to nudge public opinion closer to supporting tax credits to pay for private schools. Since about 80 percent of American students outside the public system attend religious schools, ‘universal choice’—or allowing taxpayer money to follow individual students to any private or public school—could eventually mean financing thousands of Christian schools.

    “Detroit has been at the heart of the charter push, which began in the early ’90s. In 1996, former Detroit Metro Times reporter Curt Guyette showed how the Prince Foundation, as well as the foundation run by Dick DeVos’ parents, funded a carefully orchestrated campaign to label Detroit’s public schools as failing—and pushed for charters and “universal educational choice” as a better alternative. While Betsy DeVos has not called for an end to traditional public schools, she has written about the need to “retire” and “replace” Detroit’s public school system and pressed for aggressively expanding charter schools and vouchers.”

    Source: Mother Jones: Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build “God’s Kingdom” by Kristina Riza, January 17, 2017 

  18. Source: Politico: How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics by Zack Stanton 

  19. Statewide, about 80 percent of Michigan’s charter schools are run by for-profit management companies, a much higher share than anywhere else in the country. And two years ago, DeVos fought aggressively against legislation that would stop failing charter schools from expanding, and she and her husband were the biggest financial backers of the effort to oppose any new state oversight of charters.

    Source: Politico: How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics by Zack Stanton 

  20. Source: New York Times: A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift, by Kate Zernike, June 28, 2016 

  21. “DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education.

    Bennet, a big supporter of charter schools, made the point that school choice isn’t much of a choice when schools aren’t held accountable and families have lousy choices wherever they look. He noted that the Detroit public schools — one of the country’s most troubled systems — has low student achievement, and charter schools in Detroit score only minimally higher. He also cited a study that said charter schools across Michigan perform worse the traditional public schools do. But instead of answering his question, she told him she wanted to give him “context” about Detroit, to which he responded, “With respect, I’m not asking for a history of Detroit.” She also said, “I think there is a lot that has gone right” there, but she never answered his question.”

    Source: Washington Post: Six Astonishing Things Betsy DeVos Said — and Refused to Say — at Her Confirmation Hearing, By Valerie Strauss January 18, 2017 

  22. Source: New York Times: A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift, by Kate Zernike, June 28, 2016 

  23. Source: The Washington Post; How Indiana’s School Voucher Program Soared, and What It Says About Education in the Trump Era, by: Brown, Emma and McLaren, Mandy, December 26, 2016 

  24. More on that in a later post. 

Please, share this post...