Education News

Despite DeVos epic voucher flop, these governor candidates follow her lead

by Félix Pérez

A little more than a year ago, Betsy DeVos assumed her post as secretary of education, eager to roll out the first-ever national school voucher program. But that was before reality came crashing in this past Friday.

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Congress, in its omnibus spending bill, rebuked the proposal by DeVos and President Trump to redirect scarce public dollars from public schools to private schools with a voucher scheme. Trump and DeVos pursued their voucher plan despite volumes of research that shows vouchers do not work, that they undermine accountability to parents and taxpayers, and that they have failed to provide opportunity to all of our students. Lawmakers did not include in the spending bill the $250 million private school voucher initiative the president and DeVos sought, as well as their $1 billion program designed to promote charters, on-line schools and home schooling. (Read more about what made it in the bill at the end of this article.)

That Trump and DeVos were unable to get their priority funded in a Republican-controlled Congress speaks to the distrust of the American public, 90 percent of whose children attend public schools. Voucher proponents like DeVos have sought to repackage their unpopular idea, sometimes as education savings accounts, education tax credits, personalized learning accounts or opportunity scholarships. But whatever they are called, they do the same thing: take scare funding from public schools.

The rejection of DeVos by Congress notwithstanding, there are several gubernatorial candidates who want to pursue her voucher agenda. Leading the way are:

ARIZONA: DOUG DUCEY

Like DeVos, Gov. Ducey enthusiastically supports vouchers. During his first-term Ducey took a page out of the DeVos privatization handbook. In addition to vouchers, Ducey, who got a $3,000 campaign donation from the DeVos family to run for office, created an environment welcoming to privately managed charter schools that are unaccountable to the communities they serve. Ducey touted the expansion of his signature school voucher-style program at a summit of Koch mega-donors during an annual summit near Palm Springs in January. The governor led the effort last year to expand the Arizona voucher program. Ducey and the Koch brothers have set their sights on saving Arizona’s expanded voucher law, put on hold last year via a referendum on the ballot this November.

ILLINOIS: BRUCE RAUNER

Rauner, dubbed the “worst Republican governor in America” by a conservative magazine, vetoed an education funding bill in January, demanding that more private schools be given access to public money in the form of education tax credits, or vouchers. Previously, the first-term incumbent pushed the state into a two-year budget impasse, during which more than $1 billion was not paid out to school districts. Public colleges and universities statewide announced layoffs, social service agencies shut down, construction projects stalled, and businesses were owed billions for goods and services provided to the state. Rauner is a longtime critic of public schools. Before becoming governor, Rauner told other wealthy activists in a 2011 email that half of Chicago teachers “are virtually illiterate” with a “hostile union” and half the principals are “incompetent.”

MICHIGAN: BILL SCHUETTE

Michigan Attorney General Schuette is a strong supporter of Betsy DeVos’s push for charter schools and school vouchers. According to VoteSmart, an independent voter service website, Schuette supports providing “parents with state-funded vouchers to send their children to any participating school (public, private, religious). Schuette, in a newspaper column praising DeVos for education secretary, 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.

NEVADA: ADAM LAXALT

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a rising star in national conservative circles, is expected to to revive the state’s education savings accounts program if elected governor. The program uses public school funds to expand the state’s income-based private school vouchers, which divert funding from public schools. He also wants more publicly funded charter schools. “I am a supporter of Education Savings Accounts as part of my broad commitment to creating more school choice in Nevada. I am proud of the work my office did defending ESAs all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court,” said Laxalt in an interview.

PENNSYLVANIA: SCOTT WAGNER

Wagner, an early favorite for the Republican nomination for governor, is a most strident critic of public schools. He supports bringing DeVos’s education agenda to Pennsylvania with a statewide voucher plan. In addition, Wagner 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% of the retirement they earned. Wagner recently raised the ire of educators and parents when he said the state’s 14 state colleges will not be around in four years. “So, for those of you who think your school’s going to be around four years from now, it isn’t going to be around,” Wagner said.

WISCONSIN: SCOTT WALKER

Gov. Walker, a recipient of generous contributions from the Koch brothers, gained national attention early in his term by signing into law a bill that strips the collective bargaining rights of educators. As governor he’s led the charge to expand a private voucher school industry that is taking millions of tax dollars out of the state’s public schools. Walker’s 2015 budget proposed removing any cap on vouchers, allowing unlimited statewide expansion of unaccountable voucher schools. Walker’s 2011-2013 budget slashed funding for K-12 education by $792 million—the biggest cut to educationin Wisconsin’s history. That Walker budget also removed the enrollment cap on the Milwaukee school voucher program. Walker has close ties to voucher advocates, snagging nearly $2 million in gubernatorial campaign contributions from voucher backers since 2008.

The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress:

  • Contains a nearly $4 billion boost in education funding, with Title I, IDEA and Head Start all receiving important increases.
  • Renews the expired Secure Rural Schools Act, with $426 million over two years.
  • Provides $700 million for Title IV grants – flexible funding for school districts aimed at providing a well-rounded education and for use for counselors and school-based mental health services.
  • Allocates $610 million for Head Start.
  • Sets aside $86 million for Impact Aid, a critical funding source for local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to tax-exempt federal property.
  • Distributes $75 million for Career Technical Education.
  • Allots $20 million for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool); the DeVos budget eliminated the program.
  • Gives $2.37 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants.

22 responses to “Despite DeVos epic voucher flop, these governor candidates follow her lead

  1. Minnesota had Mark Dayton, who has been an amazing advocate for education. Unfortunately, he is not running in the fall. Even worse-we have Tim Pawlenty running for the spot again, after taking time off to make a run for President and work for a lobbying firm, making 2.5 million a year. When he left office last time, he left the state in debt AND “borrowed” (i.e. stole) from education funding that Dayton had to fix.

    Yes, our upper wage earners had a tax increase. Yes, our state is one of the higher taxed states in the country, BUT we have good schools that are funded because of Dayton, as well as a surplus that he has dedicated parts to fund early childhood, higher ed, etc.

    Please put Tim Pawlenty on this list!

  2. Thirty years in education and one year of DeVos and education suffers. Instead of helping public schools this woman has created a system of potential elitist administrated idiots
    You want to fire someone can her.

  3. I think it would be important to see a list of ALL of the governors and state Secretary’s of Education who support Devos. This will help more people to be aware and pay more attention as well get them out to vote and get involved.

  4. I’m just discusted by people being elected/appointed and changing things without the good of the whole in mind. I’m grateful to those who have been the voices of common sense, and I try to as often as possible. Thank you. God help us all!

  5. Billionaires should never be in charge any nation’s public offices and institutions. At least the wedge that has further driven Americans apart politically, economically, socially, and racially has been somewhat slowed by the Congress. Now we need to stand up in each state and get these Republican puppets out of office. Every public school parent, student, teacher and administrator needs to be involved in this political process, even when it requires taking extra time that we rarely have.

    1. FYI-Minnesota has Mark Dayton, who is a billionaire. He did, however, fund his own campaign and taxed higher income individuals, including himself, to make sure schools and our state are funded.

      Let’s look at everyone’s views, rather than their bank accounts. There are some good rich folks out there, too.

  6. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland also needs to be on this list. He ensured that an item providing added funds for nonpublic schools be in the budget bill a couple of years ago. This year he increased the amount for such schools from $5 million to almost $9 million. The Democratic amended the bill to cut the amount back to $5 million and it went to conference with the House being against such nonpublic school aid and the Senate being for it. I haven’t yet seen the final result, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Hogan’s precious nonpublic schools get another increase out of it.

  7. The Florida legislature passed several bills designed to transfer public money to private schools. The Republican governor signed them. Rick Scott can’t run again for governor, but he is planning to run for US Senator. If he wins he’ll be a big backer of the Trump/DeVos anti-public education agenda.

  8. Anyone who votes for Republican candidates is voting against Democracy and and all of the promise and potential of our great country. The evidence supporting this statement is irrefutable.

  9. As a former teacher, I know the value of a public school education. As Thomas Jefferson said the Bacchus he can only survive with an educated populace. We need to both these people out of office to secure the continuation of our.democracy !

    1. I agree! And I’ve voted for 54 years! Democrats need to “get out the vote”. Our public schools are doing a great job, and they need more funding to increase the staffing and lower class size. Public schools don’t turn away kids. Our excellent teachers should not have to work 2 jobs to survive financially. We need to encourage them with our support. Teachers should not have to go on strike to be paid a living wage.

  10. Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska needs to be on this list too. Our unicameral is trying to pass vouchers that would buy our already meager public school budgets andgive tax breaks to wealth donors va “scholarships” for non-public schools.

  11. I work the system, so I’m heavily involved in the lives of my students. I get to see reality. It’s not the Republicans that dumb kids down. I actually had to correct public school teachers, in regards to word knowledge because they posted words on tv incorrectly. These were ‘spelling words’ that were spelled incorrectly. That’s what you don’t get to see. The public schools dumb kids down.

  12. Attention: Brainless Republican Governers who believe in the power of the voucher. THEY DON’T WORK, and I repeat for slow learners, VOUCHERS DO NOT WORK. ( Read this repeatedly until you understand)

  13. Allow me to tell you a little reality. I worked inside and outside of the school system. I am the type of educator that gets the job done. When my students exit my programs, they’re ready for college and more. They pass their tests with ease. When I was in the public schools, my students struggled with minut problems. I had to start from ground zero with them.
    Simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division…students couldn’t do.

    I teach a wide variety of subjects and grade levels, but I’m specifically referring to high school students, who should have mastered the basics in elementary. The private schools are a different story. Homeschooling programs are also much better for students.

    Look around you. Do you see kids acting out, responding negatively, shooting up schools, etc.? Congrats, welcome to public schooling. How’s it working for you?

  14. Wake up you states whose Governors lack the wisdom and dedication to those ideals of public education!! Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania Arizona, and Wisconsin leaders are not supporting the children who will run those states eventually! DeVos and her crazy voucher ideas are idiotic! Even the Republicans didn’t fund it… doesn’t that tell you something???? Wake up and support Public Schools! They are NOT the 1%!!!!!

  15. I cannot understand how you can accept DeVos monies and still be neutral about DeVos voucher plan. It seems that money always talks to politicians. I was wondering if Scott Wagner would be willing to give up his own and his spouse’s sick days and their own retirement plan.

  16. Know that all of these people are Republicans who continue to be loyal to the process of dumbing down America. It is time to remove them from office, or we shall further create uneducated Americans.

    1. I contend this dismantling of public education is entering its fourth decade with a bleak outlook for the future. These un-American oligarchs have unlimited funds with more now since the tax breaks signed into law by the guy who loves the undereducated. They want to rid our society of public libraries, also. Unbelievably un-American.

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