Wednesday, October 11, 2006

DeVos & school vouchers: The hidden agenda

The following is a post from July of this year on DeVos and vouchers. I'm happy to say that the links are still live at the mlive/GR Press site, so if you want to read more, follow them.

Last night during the debate the issue of vouchers was touched upon- from the Grand Rapids Press-

Granholm said that education funding is as high as it's ever been, and said she has worked to improve academic standards. She cited a 2002 speech DeVos gave before the conservative Heritage Foundation as proof that DeVos hasn't given up on vouchers, which funnel public funds to private and religious schools.

In the Heritage speech, DeVos said, "When the time comes, we will bring the (voucher) fight back to Michigan again and do everything we can there."

"He will bring it back under the radar," Granholm said.

She is right. Here is my original post:

July 9, 2006

The headline story of the Grand Rapids Press this morning puts the voucher issue back in the spotlight and shows how the DeVos family has funded these initiatives here in Michigan and across the country to the tune of millions of dollars. DeVos is saying one thing to the voters, but his money speaks the truth on what his intentions really are. Go read for a breakdown of the the river of funding on this issue here and elsewhere.

Not surprising- but what is surprising is that in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in 2002, he admits that bullying and stealth are the prefered ways to go about implementing your schemes.

As a candidate for governor, Dick DeVos has carefully calibrated his comments on education, skirting the incendiary issue of vouchers.

But the Republican businessman spoke with more candor -- and what opponents say is contradiction -- in a Dec. 3, 2002, speech before the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"Michigan may well move to the back of the education reform train, which, as a native of Michigan, I'm saddened to say," DeVos told the crowd, two years after vouchers went down decisively in Michigan, in a campaign chaired by DeVos and his wife, Betsy.

"But when the time comes, we will bring the fight back to Michigan again and do everything we can there."

That statement directly contradicts DeVos' statements as a gubernatorial contender. DeVos promises vouchers will not be part of his agenda as governor because Michigan citizens spoke clearly, rejecting the voucher initiative 70 percent to 30 percent.

Back in 2000, he blamed the MEA for the loss. Apparently the voters in Michigan didn't factor into the equation- they were being led by the big, bad union. Silly us.

"We believe this is temporary because the people of Michigan won't allow this injustice to continue," he said. "Obviously my sadness isn't for the campaign, but for those kids who were counting on hope for the future."

DeVos attributed the loss to the "machinery" of the Michigan Education Association, the statewide teacher's union that contributed more than $4 million to defeat the proposal.

"We were up against the most powerful and best-funded political machines," DeVos said. "It's got a tremendous amount of muscle and a tremendous self-interest in preserving the status quo."

DeVos said he and his wife, Betsy, will continue to push for school reform, though he declined to say what form it would take.

Source Citation: "Voucher proposal hurt GOP, critics say; Dick DeVos says he will keep working to extend school aid. Foes blame the campaign for the Michigan defeats of Bush and Abraham.(Front Page)." The Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI) (Nov 8, 2000)

Back to the present- Dick drags out the now redundant "other states" canard.

But DeVos said he does believe Michigan can watch what is happening in other states and learn.

The voucher debate in Michigan occurred at a time when there were few examples of that kind of education funding elsewhere, DeVos said in an interview last week. Now, there is a growing track record.

As for the timing of a renewed voucher debate, he said, "I don't know when that will be."

In the Heritage Speech, Dick lays out the plan- punishment for the nay-sayers and general secrecy on the goal. More evidence that Dick threatens retaliation against fellow Republicans and anyone else that won't follow his wishes.

The speech was in part a tactical analysis in which DeVos defined a state-by-state strategy for advancing vouchers. In addition, he urged the audience to construct local organizations that could offer "political consequences for opposition and political reward for support of education reform." He held up as a model the Great Lakes Education Project, formed by DeVos and his wife, Betsy, following the voucher defeat. GLEP challenged Republicans who were viewed as soft on charter schools.

Whatever you do, don't expose your ideas to the light of public debate...

"We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities, and the political work that needs to go on will go on at the grassroots, it will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that politics is done, one person at a time speaking to another person in privacy," DeVos said at the time.

Why the need to be "cautious"? Because people are so dead-set against your idea that you need to hide it and then bully it through?

Two years after the defeat of his proposal at the polls, Dick remained defiant to public opinion.

Near the close of the speech, during a question-and-answer session, DeVos cautioned his audience against abandoning vouchers in favor of tuition tax credits, which allow reimbursement for private-school tuition.

"I think tax credits would have been clobbered equally or worse within the context of Michigan, due to the dynamics of the situation," DeVos said. "So I am not at all chastened by my support for vouchers by the outcome of that election."

Attention voters: Your opinion Does. Not. Matter.

One thing is for sure- it will be hard to be a Republican under a DeVos administration. Dick seems more than willing to use threats to get his way, perhaps even at the expense of sacrificing someone else's career. It would be difficult to face your constituents after being forced to bow to his wishes on wildly unpopular ideas.