by Brian Washington
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You can tell a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps. The same holds true for elected officials who align themselves with Betsy DeVos, who ranks as the most unqualified education secretary in the nation’s history.
DeVos, who is extremely wealthy, has used her millions to cultivate followers at every level of government. Today, Education Votes takes a look at elected officials running for governor in key battleground states who have pledged allegiance to DeVos and her destructive anti-public schools agenda, which includes voucher schemes. Vouchers use your tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition for a small select few. More importantly, they drain hundreds of millions of dollars in critical funding away from public schools and the vast majority of students and families who depend on them. Vouchers are DeVos’ weapon of choice for dismantling public education and represent one of the biggest threats to public education.
Last year, when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who is seeking a second term, signed into law legislation expanding vouchers, DeVos sent out a tweet congratulating him for doing so. DeVos and Ducey are members of a mutual admiration society. During DeVos’ confirmation hearings, Ducey publicly endorsed DeVos for education secretary. But it’s more than just praise. In 2014, DeVos and her husband gave Ducey about $3,000 in campaign contributions.
During DeVos’ confirmation hearings, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner told reporters he respected her greatly. That respect may be linked to the $13,000 in campaign contributions Rauner scooped up from DeVos and her family in 2014. Like every other politician who takes DeVos cash, once in office, Rauner tried to push through a voucher scheme, which the state legislature ended up blocking. However, he did manage to get a back-door voucher system in place—a tax credit for individuals and corporations who donate money for private school scholarships.
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, along with high-level politicians from all 50 states, signed a letter expressing support for DeVos’ nomination as education secretary. Reynolds took over last year for Governor Terry Branstad after President Trump appointed him United States Ambassador to China. She’s running to get elected to the post in November. Reynolds, in her condition of the state address, proclaimed her dedication to private school advocates by committing to couple with the federal tax reform bill, expanding Iowa’s 529 plans to subsidize k-12 private schools. Reynolds stood by Branstad’s side last year during his unsuccessful bid to get a voucher system in Iowa. State lawmakers are now considering other voucher schemes. If approved, few doubt that Reynolds would sign it into law.
In Michigan, DeVos’ home state, where she’s been called a four-star general in the privatization movement, the field of candidates seeking the governor’s office includes three elected leaders with ties to Betsy DeVos. The state’s current attorney general remains the front-runner on the GOP side. Bill Schuette wrote an editorial in favor of DeVos for education secretary. His editorial followed campaign contributions totaling a whopping $106,800 from the DeVos family dating back to 1997.
The state’s current Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, another declared candidate for governor, signed the same letter supporting DeVos that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed. Calley also made several public statements supporting DeVos and her agenda.
The third elected official in the GOP field with ties to DeVos, State Senator Patrick Colbeck, took more than $18,000 in campaign contributions from her dating back to 2011. He also co-sponsored the state’s right-to-work law, which stripped educators and other government employees of their right to have a voice in the workplace. The DeVos family threw big dollars behind the bill and the campaign that lead to its successful passage. Colbeck publicly endorsed DeVos following her appointment.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu actually traveled to Washington, D.C., last year to have a private meeting with DeVos—one that was closed to the press. Sununu leaves little to interpretation when it comes to his support for DeVos. He describes himself as an “enthusiastic supporter.” Meanwhile, state legislators are currently pedaling a bill that would provide private school vouchers to half of the state’s public school population—about 84,500 children. If the legislature approves, Sununu will sign the bill into law. Imagine the drain such a program would have on public schools.
More to come…
You’ll hear more about these and other politicians with DeVos connections running for governor throughout this campaign season. It’s our way of helping you stay informed so you can help your neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers make the best choices for students and public schools.