I can’t say for certain whether or not the dollar amounts indicated on this chart, which was floating around the internet today, are absolutely accurate, but, from what I know about DeVos, and what she herself has said about spending money in order to get politicians to do what she wants, I don’t have much reason to doubt them. Regardless of the exact dollar amounts, we know that DeVos has used her $5.1 billion fortune to pay Republican legislators for their assistance in furthering her anti-public school agenda. As we’ve discussed before, she’s publicly admitted as much.
In a 1997 op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos said, “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee.” She then when on to add, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”
And it looks as though this significant investment of on the part of DeVos and her husband Dick, who we’ve heard on tape saying that their end goal is to “advance God’s kingdom” on earth by dismantling public schools so that churches can reclaim their position at the center of our communities, is about to pay off big time. When the men and women listed below cast their votes for DeVos on Monday, they’ll essentially be giving her carte blanche to do across America what she’s done in Michigan, removing all caps on for-profit charter schools, while, at the same time, guaranteeing virtually no oversight. This, my friends, is how you kill public education. And it’s happening right in front of our eyes.
If you don’t believe me, just look at what’s happened in Michigan, where, thanks to the efforts of DeVos, we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those “good” students who don’t require things like special education, which can be costly. [Here in Ypsilanti alone, if I’m not mistaken, six public schools have been forced to close over the past decade.] Just go on Google Street View and look at the ubiquitous billboards in our at-risk communities advertising fly-by-night virtual charters offering to educate our kids over the internet. [They give kids laptops and access to an online platform, and just collect the money from the state that would have otherwise been directed to a public school.]
They’ve been assuring us for the past 20 years that this unfettered competition will yield better opportunities for our students, but the results just don’t bear that out. I’d argue, however, that better schools were never the end goal. I think, from day one, the real objective has always been to kill the teachers unions, while, at the same time, funneling public money into the hands of private corporations, which, in turn, contribute to conservative causes and legislators. And, it’s working. While I don’t have current data, between 2012 and 2015 Michigan’s two teachers unions, the MEA and the AFT, lost almost 28,000 members. And, in large part that’s due to the overwhelming growth of the charter school industry, which, according to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into.” More importantly, though, these programs pushed by DeVos and others, just aren’t working for kids.
A recent investigation by the Detroit Free Press, which looked at two decades of charter school records and data from across Michigan, found: “Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them. And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws. Michigan leads the nation in schools run by for-profits.” And much of the blame lies with DeVos, who not only led, but funded, the charge.
Here, from Chalkbeat, is a great example of DeVos in action: “When Michigan lawmakers this year were considering a measure that would have added oversight for charter schools in Detroit, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million into legislators’ campaign coffers — an average of $25,000 a day for seven weeks. Oversight was not included in the final legislation.”
And, that, my friends, is the kind of maneuvering on behalf of the for-profit charter industry that you can expect to see happening across the United States, assuming DeVos is confirmed on Monday as Trump’s Secretary of Education… I’m not sure, when you add it all up, how much she paid for the Cabinet post, but you can be damn sure she’s going to see a return on that investment.
Here are the Republican Senators that DeVos has paid-off though financial contributions. If you know anyone who lives in one of these states, I’d encourage you to reach out today and ask them to place a call to their Senator’s office and, after demanding that he or she not vote in favor of DeVos on Monday, ask whether or not these contributions influenced their decision… YOU CAN FIND PHONE NUMBERS FOR EVERY SENATOR HERE.
This, my friends, is how Democracy ends. And if you can’t see it, you’re blind. This is the clearest example there ever was. We have a billionaire who has proudly claimed in the past that it’s her intention to buy influence, paying those very Republican Senators who will be voting to give her a Cabinet seat that everyone knows she’s unqualified for. How this is legal, I have no idea. It would seem to me that every one of the men and women listed above would need to recuse themselves from this vote, but apparently that’s not the case… Of course, if you pick up the phone right now, we might still be able to stop it from happening. As I said above, we only need one more Republican vote. It’s in your hands.