Wednesday, November 23, 2016

School choice advocate (and so much more!) Betsy DeVos is Trump's choice for Secretary of Education

So, who is she?
If you want to update your Twitter lists, you can find her account here (she was at 450 followers or so when the announcement came through).
The Chalkbeat did a "five things" that would be indicated by her appointment: her big issue is charters, vouchers, school choice: "The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country." That gave us Detroit schools that are here, plus commentary around Michigan education like this. (Let me in general just recommend the Detroit Free Press as a resource) The DeVos family used their political donations to sway lawmakers around school choice and related efforts.
She doesn't oppose Common Core (she's on the Jeb Bush spectrum there), so that looks like another campaign point of Trump that we're taking a miss on (we were anyway, as the federal government has no oversight there, anyway, but we could have gotten someone who was going to complain about it).
They also note "Outside of education, her family gave heavily to efforts to ban same sex-marriage in Michigan." This is in keeping with the donations of the family in general, supporting groups that are against legalized abortion, LBGTQ rights, and the like. (UPDATE) The DeVos family also supports the Acton Institute, which recently gave a ringing endorsement to bringing back child labor; Peter Greene covers this well.
She's been upfront about what she sees her political contributions for; she is directly quoted:
“I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party,” wrote DeVos, according to Mayer. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American values.”
There's an extensive article about the family's giving here (from March). The family is among the top funders of conservative politics in Michigan. Not only that, but they have been active in destroying the other side, as in their efforts to get so-called "right to work" legislation passed in Michigan.
The family wealth, as Politico notes, comes from Amway. Richard DeVos, her husband, is the former president of the company; his father (also named Richard) founded the company. The connections Muckety maps out are fascinating: most notably, her brother founded Blackwater, and apparently now is an advisor to the crown price of Abu Dabai.
It is worth noting from a Massachusetts perspective that vouchers are banned by the state constitution (and remember that the next time the Pioneer Institute starts talking about Know-Nothing clauses. It may have been anti-Catholic when it passed; that doesn't mean that separation of church and state should end).
More as I have it.

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