Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has no qualms about playing politics with the lives of students and working families, as evidenced Monday by the reckless and misguided education budget proposal she and President Trump released. The proposal slashes billions from public education, forces families to pay more for college and redirects scarce funding from public schools to private schools through a voucher scheme.
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But DeVos’s destructive policies are not limited to the reach of the federal government. She has contributed to her BFFs (best friends forever) running for governor in November. The candidates — three of whom are seeking their second term as governor — have pledged their allegiance to DeVos and her anti-public schools agenda, which includes vouchers and all manner of charter schools.
DeVos, whose family is one of the wealthiest in America, has used her riches for decades to cultivate acolytes at every level of government. This year there are a number of candidates running for governor who are followers of DeVos’s agenda. Leading the way among her ideological sweethearts are:
- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey endorsed DeVos for education secretary. In 2014, DeVos and her husband gave Ducey about $3,000 in campaign contributions. DeVos praised Ducey last year when he signed legislation expanding education savings accounts, or vouchers. DeVos Tweeted, “A big win for students & parents in Arizona tonight with the passage of ed savings acts. I applaud Gov. @DougDucey for putting kids first.” Arizona is only the second state in the nation to offer universal eligibility for ESAs; the other is Nevada.
- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner told reporters he respects DeVos greatly. “I do know Betsy DeVos. I have great respect for her,” Rauner said about Trump’s nomination of DeVos. “I think she’s a very talented and very passionate education advocate. And I personally am a believer in school choice. And I look forward to working together.” Rauner received $13,000 in campaign contributions from DeVos and her family in 2014. Rauner vetoed an education funding bill last month, saying it did not expand the number of private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers.
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wrote an editorial in favor of DeVos for education secretary. Schuette, in singing DeVos’s praises, took a swipe at public schools, saying, “too often the educational model looks like a horse and buggy system built on corduroy roads.” The DeVos family and DeVos organizations contributed at least $136,000 to Schuette’s campaigns between 2009-2014. Schuette and DeVos have long-running ties in Michigan, where the DeVos family lives.
- Pennsylvania state Sen. Scott Wagner supports bringing DeVos’s agenda to Pennsylvania with a statewide voucher plan. In one of his first decisions as candidate for governor, Wagner hired John Kennedy, the former chairman of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. DeVos’s American Federation for Children helped fund the creation of Citizens Alliance. Wagner also wants to eliminate benefits that educators earn, including sick days. He plans to end pensions for working educators and wants retired educators to give back 10 percent of the retirement they earned.
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who describes himself as a “friend” of DeVos, has received direct contributions from the DeVos family, which has given $342,600 to his three campaigns for governor, and Betsy DeVos herself ($11,000). The American Federation for Children provided millions of dollars of to Walker’s pro-voucher campaign; DeVos served as chairwoman and a leading funder of AFC until she was nominated as education secretary. In a letter to the Senate supporting DeVos’s nomination, Walker wrote, “The appointment of President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, will help to create an effective education system and I strongly support her confirmation.”