by Brian Washington
Education Votes is issuing a warning to voters about Florida gubernatorial candidates with ties to Betsy DeVos and her privatization agenda. These connections may provide clues about the policies they might implement if elected to the state’s highest office. Policies that stand to do more harm than good and could have a strong, negative impact on students, educators, and public schools.
Betsy DeVos ranks as the most unqualified education secretary in the nation’s history. If you have any doubts about this, just check out her most recent national interview. During the interview, she was asked if she had visited any struggling public schools to determine how she could best help them. She replied, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”
That is because Betsy DeVos wants to defund public education and give more money to private schools. She supports private school vouchers, which syphon away millions of dollars from public schools to subsidize tuition at private schools. Voucher schemes are DeVos’s weapon of choice for dismantling public education. She also supports unaccountable charter schools—which also take money away from public schools and the vast majority of students who attend them.
Florida’s gubernatorial primaries take place in August 2018. As an advocate for students and public schools, you need to be able to spot those candidates who, if elected, are more inclined to take a page out of the DeVos playbook, which is all about dismantling public education.
Republican Adam Putnam
Putnam currently serves as the state’s Agriculture Commissioner. One obvious sign he is a DeVos acolyte—he signed an open letter of support for her nomination as Education Secretary. The letter, released last year during National School Choice Week, refers to DeVos as the “undisputed champion of families and students.”
Putnam’s campaign website doesn’t list an education platform and touts his most important issues as 1) conservative principles, 2) gun rights (He referred to himself as a “proud NRA sell out”), and 3) Veterans.
However, Putnam and his wife put out a video that underscores his support for school choice. In the video, his wife states that she and her husband believe that parents should be able to enroll their child in the school that best fits their child’s needs. Those who support private school vouchers and unaccountable charter schools often use this messaging.
Republican Ron DeSantis
U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis has not signed any letters of support or made any public statements backing DeVos. However, it is important to note that during his tenure in Congress, he has voted to support voucher schemes that drained critical dollars away from public schools in the District of Columbia.
Another aspect of his gubernatorial campaign that makes us here at Education Votes suspect he falls in line with DeVos’s privatization agenda is that he has the full backing of DeVos’s boss, President Trump. In a tweet last year, President Trump said DeSantis would make a “GREAT” governor for Florida.
Republican Richard Corcoran
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has yet to officially announce he is running for Governor, but it is widely speculated that he will. Like Putnam, Corcoran also signed an open letter urging the U.S. Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.
“Betsy DeVos has made it her life’s mission to find, support and push for education solutions (private school vouchers and unaccountable charter schools) in her home state of Michigan and across the country,” read the letter, released last year before her confirmation vote.
However, the letter doesn’t talk about how DeVos used her campaign contributions to persuade state politicians to back her privatization agenda, an agenda that has drained public schools of hundreds of millions of dollars and has made a mess of public education in Detroit and throughout the state.
Florida is already home to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, a voucher scheme created in 2001 used to take tax dollars to private schools with very little oversight or accountability. Corcoran is seeking to expand the program and, as a result, divert more money away from public schools. If elected governor, expect more of the same.
More to come…
You will hear more about these and other politicians with DeVos connections running for governor throughout this campaign season. It is our way of helping you stay informed so you can help your neighbors, family members, friends, and coworkers make the best choices for students and public schools.