Saturday, February 4, 2017

How Betsy DeVos Ignored and Targeted Michigan Republicans to Advance Her Hardline Education Ideology – Capital & Main

How Betsy DeVos Ignored and Targeted Michigan Republicans to Advance Her Hardline Education Ideology – Capital & Main:

How Betsy DeVos Ignored and Targeted Michigan Republicans to Advance Her Hardline Education Ideology

With Senate confirmation of Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos now hanging by the thread of a likely tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, one thing has become apparent: DeVos’ views on public education are well outside the mainstream of either party.
Perhaps less well known is that DeVos has demonstrated a willingness to override and even go after Republicans who fail to completely embrace her program of charter schools, vouchers and deregulation.
The defections this week of GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who both announced that they would vote against DeVos, underscore a fact that Michigan Republicans have known for some time. DeVos is committed to an ideological stance on education that leaves little room for compromise. And as one of the state’s wealthiest and most powerful political donors — in the 2016 election year alone, she and her husband, Dick DeVos Jr., gave $2.7 million to Republican candidates — Betsy DeVos has the clout to enforce her will. (Since 1999, DeVos and her extended family has spent an estimated $82 million on political campaigns at the state and federal levels.)
Republican State Senator Goeff Hansen, who represents Michigan’s 34th District, learned a painful lesson last year about Devos’ hardline positions. Hansen became the unlikely champion of an extraordinary bipartisan effort, the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, to rescue Detroit Public Schools (DPS) from years of financial insolvency and woeful academic performance. A central goal was to fix the destabilizing free-for-all system — likened by some to the Wild West — in which a dozen or more entities could open and close schools with virtually no oversight.
That campaign, which unfolded over several years, eventually encompassed an almost unheard of alliance of teachers unions, charter schools, business leaders, legislators from both parties, civil rights organizations and grassroots advocacy groups.
By the time Hansen introduced legislation in the Michigan State Senate, longtime adversaries had put aside their differences to embrace a package that few had thought possible when the process began. The proposed law passed by the Senate on March 2016, which also gained the support of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, would have created a commission charged with overseeing the opening and closing of schools, as well as authorizing $720 million to bring DPS out of near-bankruptcy and giving operating control back to the local district, which had been run by state for years.
The legislation was passed with the support of both Democrats and Republicans and sent to the Michigan House of Representatives. Dave Pagel was one of the Michigan House Republicans who supported the creation of the oversight commission. “I did support the Detroit Education Commission,” Pagel told Capital & Main. “We needed to have some control over where schools were popping up. Simple choice doesn’t solve any problems; we need to find a way to improve education regardless of the choices that are happening.”
DeVos and her allies, however, were unwilling to cede any ground in the war they had waged for years to ensure that charter schools in Michigan remain almost entirely unregulated. They worked to dismantle the bill, and by the time they were finished, the House had stripped the oversight commission from the legislation while adding draconian requirements for school closures.
With the specter of DeVos withholding campaign funds looming over Republicans who dared to defy her, the new version of the bill passed the House by one vote, was approved by the same margin in the Senate and signed by Governor Snyder. The turn of events infuriated proponents of the original bipartisan legislation and left Hansen on the verge of tears.
“This was a just and honest cause. Unfortunately, I’m unable to support this bill, and it pains me greatly to say that,” he said during How Betsy DeVos Ignored and Targeted Michigan Republicans to Advance Her Hardline Education Ideology – Capital & Main:


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