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From the Betsy DeVos Archives: Letters to the Editor and Much More

January 15, 2017

As a part of her response to “Common Questions for Executive Branch Nominees,” US ed sec nominee Betsy DeVos listed the following 19 entries as her “publications”:

  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, July 31, 1994
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit News, August 26, 1997
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, September 05, 1997
  • Opinion Column, Roll Call, September 06, 1997
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit Free Press, September 21, 1998
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, May 13, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, June 23, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Traverse City Record Eagle, September 01, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, December 21, 20011 (typo in list)
  • Opinion Column, Macomb Daily, August 07, 2002
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, July 22, 2003
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, February 08, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, March 20, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, May 02, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, May 20, 2004
  • Letter to the Editor, Port Huron Times Herald, August 05, 2012
  • “Competition, Creativity and Choice in the Classroom,” SxSWedu, March 11, 2015
  • Press release, American Federation for Children, December 17, 2015
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit Free Press, September 11, 2016

What one sees above supposedly constitutes the publications of a person nominated for the highly visible, highly influential position of US secretary of education.

I thought I might read DeVos’ dossier of opinion pieces. So, I went in search of them. The ones I located I have linked to in this post.

I have also linked to a number of additional news articles about DeVos and her activities. My search chiefly centered on 1994 to 2004; however, there are a few more recent articles, as well.

Regarding the 19 entries DeVos included as her publications: I located five.

I also located two additional opinion pieces that DeVos did not include on her “publications” list.

About Those 19 “Publications”

DeVos’ March 2015 SxSW paper was the easiest of the 19 to locate. In it, DeVos notes that “government sucks” and that “we don’t fire teachers enough,” which prompted me on the spot to write this January 14, 2016, post.

Next, DeVos’s American Federation for Children (AFC) press release (dated December 16, 2015, not December 17). The subject: vouchers in Washington, DC, and federal school choice, with no mention of traditional public ed. An excerpt:

There was some good news for charter schools in both the FY 2016 omnibus bill and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) – and we applaud these positive steps forward. But for families in Washington, D.C. and across the country, there is much, much more that needs to be done. Federal education dollars should be leveraged to empower parents with greater educational choice. Families want and deserve access to all educational options, including charter schools, private schools and virtual schools. States are well ahead of Congress on this and their efforts should be encouraged and supported. Twenty-three states plus DC have 48 publicly funded private school choice programs; 43 states have charter school laws; and virtual schools are growing across the country. Greater innovation and choice will contribute to better K-12 educational outcomes for our children.

That makes 2 out of 19. As for the rest:

Using the search engine, newspapers.com, I located the following from DeVos’ Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press listings:

detroit_free_press_sun__jul_31__1994 (Campaigning for Spence Abraham for US Senate)

Letter to the editor: “Fieger is a bigot” and some additional Democratic gubernatorial candidate Geoff Fieger-related commentary:

detroit_free_press_mon__sep_21__1998

detroit_free_press_thu__jul_2__1998 (related)

And the Port Huron Times Herald entry:

the_times_herald_sun__aug_5__2012 “Eick will serve us well in Michigan House” (signed DeVos, board member, GLEP)

Five out of 19.

For the following Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press entries, the newspapers.com search engine “found no matches”:

August 26, 1997

September 05, 1997

May 13, 2001

February 08, 2004

May 20, 2004

As for 2004: newspapers.com does not seem to have any Detroit Free Press/Detroit News issues for 2004. Not sure why. Also, a search for a May 13, 2001, Detroit Free Press/Detroit News issue also yielded no result. Thus, I could not verify whether DeVos actually published the three Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press opinion pieces dated 2001 and 2004.

Too, the Grand Rapids Press allows for archived searches, but not all issues (not 2001 or 2004); so, I could not search for the Grand Rapids Press entries that DeVos listed. Finally, it seems that the Macomb Daily archives only go back to 2009; so, that search, too, was a bust.

Still, I was able to verify that some of the publication entries on DeVos’ US ed sec application are in error. For the August 26, 1997, and September 05, 1997, Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press issues, I examined the papers manually in search of opinion pieces written by DeVos and found none.

A search of the Traverse City Record-Eagle archives yielded no result for “betsy devos” on September 01, 2001. (I expanded the search to include 2001 and 2002 inclusive; no results.)

Furthermore, Betsy DeVos is in the September 11, 2016, Detroit Free Press editorials, but not as an author. An article on page 16A details Michigan State House candidates who raised the most money; the DeVoses contributed to 5 out of the 10 who raised the most money.

Finally, a search of the Capitol City Roll Call archives only produced entries related to “betsy devos” as far back as 2014. However, a July 14, 1998, Detroit Free Press article refers to an October 07, 1997, comment DeVos made in Roll Call regarding her opinion on “soft money”– money not restricted by state or federal contribution limits (whether this is an interview or opinion piece is unclear).

And with this, I move beyond my search for DeVos’ 19 “publications” into providing a number of articles archiving DeVos’ positions and actions in the Michigan political sphere.

Beyond the 19 “Publications”: More on the DeVos Influence

What DeVos has to say about that “soft money”:

detroit_free_press_tue__jul_14__1998

Soft money is good: Hard-earned American dollars that Big Brother has yet to find a way to control.

The writer of the article, Hugh McDiarmid, notes that the context for DeVos’ comment involves “soft money at the federal level where, despite loopholes, disclosure requirements are stricter.” He continues by noting that there are “hurdles ahead” if Michigan tries to place restrictions on the usage of soft money in Michigan’s elections:

For openers, lots of serious political players, including [Betsy] DeVos, who preaches that “in politics, money is speech; you don’t have free speech without it” (and who readily concedes that her Amway Corp.-related family is one of the biggest soft-money contributors to the national GOP), are wary of such rules.

The DeVos comment about money being “free speech” is apparently also a part of her 1997 Roll Call commentary that “soft money is good,” as noted in another Hugh McDiarmid column: detroit_free_press_tue__mar_24__1998 DeVos’ “free speech” also referenced here: lansing_state_journal_mon__mar_31__1997 Too, another discussion of the DeVos “soft money” influence is in this article about Engler: the_times_herald_fri__dec_19__1997

The remaining articles I have grouped by subject. I quote from some, but not all. This post was labor- and time-intensive, so forgive me if I cut discussion short at some points. My goal is to offer these archived news links to readers to peruse at leisure– so that we all might get to know Betsy better.

To assist with organization, I bold each section topic.

Criticism of DeVos’ “soft money”:

detroit_free_press_sat__feb_14__1998

detroit_free_press_sat__nov_13__1999

Two opinion pieces DeVos did not include on her “publications” list:

Another letter to the editor: “Levin should be consistent on scandals”: detroit_free_press_tue__nov_18__1997

And an opinion piece: DeVos refers to public schools as “government schools”: lansing_state_journal_sun__dec_16__2001

I wonder why DeVos– a billionaire with as much manpower at her disposal as she could possibly need– cannot accurately compose a comprehensive listing of her opinion pieces.

The errors and omissions sure make it appear as if DeVos rushed through her homework as the first period bell was ringing because she believed no one would bother to try to verify what she or some paid assistant put on that “publications” list.

So much for that approach.

Devos as Choices for Children director. Some discussion of school letter grades in some of these links:

lansing_state_journal_fri__may_11__2001

lansing_state_journal_tue__dec_11__2001 part A

lansing_state_journal_tue__dec_11__2001 part B

the_times_herald_fri__feb_15__2002 part A

the_times_herald_fri__feb_15__2002 part B

the_times_herald_fri__jun_28__2002

Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), founded by Betsy DeVos, notably funded by DeVoses, and with money to spend on preferred candidates:

lansing_state_journal_mon__mar_18__2002

the_times_herald_mon__mar_18__2002

battle_creek_enquirer_sat__jul_27__2002

the_times_herald_sat__jul_27__2002

traverse-city-record-08-02-2002

traverse-city-record-09-15-2002

lansing_state_journal_tue__nov_5__2002

A sampling of GLEP:

lansing_state_journal_mon__feb_4__2002

The [GLEP] PAC notched a victory Tuesday, when Macomb County Republican Brian Palmer won a special state House primary against seven opponents. Palmer received a $5,000 contribution from the PAC and is now favored to win the general election.

With a few victories, DeVos hopes to shift the balance of power in the legislature toward issues she deems critical: expanded public charter schools, a limit on the number of local school elections and opposition to any change in the school funding formula.

“Anything we can do which turns the tide in favor of Republican officeholders who embrace various measures of education reform, we would consider that effective,” DeVos said.

Critics say PACs like this afford the rich undue influence over electoral policies. But DeVos says her work is just a start in response to more powerful PACs.

One campaign finance analyst sees the Great Lakes Education Project as “the new wave” of independent PACs, dedicated to one issue and built on the money of a few wealthy contributors.

“The underlying idea of a PAC was supposed to be thousands of people banding together…. Now it’s a front for people who have a whole bunch of money.”

DeVos reelected Michigan Republican Party chair:

battle_creek_enquirer_sun__feb_2__1997

DeVos’ “return on investment” quote:

detroit_free_press_thu__oct_29__1998

Betsy DeVos recently said, ” I have decided… to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. We do expect something in return.”

detroit_free_press_fri__oct_30__1998

The Free Press corrects all errors of fact….  In some Thursday editions of the Local News section, an item from the Associated Press about the Richard DeVos family’s large contributions to the Michigan Republican Party was misleading. The article carried a quote from Mother Jones magazine saying Betsy DeVos, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said, “We do expect some things in return.”

The Mother Jones article omitted the rest of the quote, which came from an article DeVos wrote: “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; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes to win elections.”

DeVos opposing Republican Party funding ban based upon candidate position on abortion:

detroit_free_press_mon__jan_12__1998

detroit_free_press_wed__jan_7__1998

tallahassee_democrat_sat__jan_17__1998

the_galveston_daily_news_sun__jan_18__1998

Later in 1998, DeVos was pressuring Republicans to oppose assisted suicide:

lansing_state_journal_fri__jun_26__1998

…A former Republican lawmaker observed that this push by DeVos to force members to fight assisted suicide was sending a mixed message. The party boasts about getting government out of the lives of individuals, but here is the chair plopping government right into the death bed of those very same citizens who don’t want a death partner. …

On the assisted suicide question, DeVos says the debate is about life and you should not keep a person alive for the sake of prolonging life, but she does not agree that the individual has the right to choose when and how to die.

“That is God’s to determine,” she suggests. Some of her detractors might retort God’s role is exactly what her party is trying to usurp.

 

On partisanship related to the Michigan Supreme Court:

detroit_free_press_tue__dec_1__1998

 

Donations to DeVos alma mater, Calvin College:

detroit_free_press_sun__oct_18__1998

There were whispers of a 30-year rift with Calvin College, which both Amway founders [Jay Van Andel and Richard DeVos] attended. It was over professors’ classroom remarks, in the 1900’s, that were critical of the partners’ apparent materialism.

The estimated $500,000 given to Calvin in recent years didn’t match nearly $5.5 million donated to Grand Valley State University or more than $3.5 million donated to Northwoods Institute.

The rumored rift was patched up in July; $10 million apiece was donated to Calvin by the Richard and helen DeVos Foundation and Elsa Prince, mother-in-law of current Amway President Dick DeVos and mother of Michigan Republican Party leader Betsy DeVos.

That $20 million gift to the private college, which is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church of North America, was the largest single donation ever made to a Grand Rapids-area institution.

Betsy DeVos’ promoting term limits for Michigan legislators:

detroit_free_press_thu__aug_21__1997

The DeVoses underwriting Michigan voucher program:

detroit_free_press_tue__sep_29__1998

Two sentences of note:

…chairman of the scholarship fund said… the scholarship fund… allows for the kind of competition that could prompt the public schools to do a better job. …

Plans to put the tax credit or voucher issue on the November ballot fell through last winter, many said because Gov. John Engler didn’t want the divisive issue on the same ballot as his re-election attempt.

DeVos rails against a Democratic congressman Bonoir over his having two residences:

detroit_free_press_wed__oct_14__1998

DeVos had a copy of a paper from the Mt. Clemens City Treasurer’s Office showing Bonoir has a homestead exemption of $17,400 on his condo. She also had copies of legal papers where Bonior called his home in Port Republic, Md., his principal residence.

But she didn’t have anything showing he got a tax exemption for his Maryland house.

DeVos said she’s asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate. She never mentioned Brian Palmer, the Republican who is running against Bonoir on Nov. 3.

DeVos’ charges outraged Macomb County Commissioner Bobby Hill, a Democrat.

“I live about three blocks south of here,” he said. “Bonoir helped us with a Habitat for Humanity house about a block from here, and I mean hands-on…

“Don’t you think that it’s a little bit ironic that we have a woman from Grand Rapids coming here to tell us he’s not our neighbor?”

(It seems that Bonoir did not take a tax break for his Maryland home: the_times_herald_sun__nov_1__1998)

Finally, DeVos “in exile” as official GOP leader but operating an unofficial GOP via her money. This is an intriguing article. An excerpt:

lansing_state_journal_fri__jan_18__2002

First there was one. Now there are two.  Republican parties in our state. The official one in Lansing and the not-so-official one in exile.

The party in exile operates out of West Michigan and is run by the former chair of the state GOP, Betsy DeVos. Surely you remember her. She’s the one who resigned in protest after she and Gov. John Engler agreed to disagree on vouchers. She was for ’em. He was agin ’em.

Not one to merely fade into the woodwork, Mrs. DeVos, like the Pied Piper, lured many from the state party staff to join her new effort– a crusade to elect like-minded and conservative Republicans to the Michigan Legislature.

She tackles this task with her usual religious-like fervor. And she has a stash of cash, pegged at half a mil, in her own political action committee. …

To receive the DeVos warm embrace, candidates must favor lifting the cap on charter schools, support the consolidation of elections to four a year, and leave alone the school funding scheme called Proposal A. School vouchers reportedly aren’t part of the litmus test, but candidates are asked for their position just to get a feel for the person’s thinking….

DeVos detractors… figure the whole movement is all about vouchers. However, Rep. Alan Sanborn… opposes vouchers, but when he got off the fence and supported removing the charter cap, a $500 DeVos check was soon in the mail.

DeVos’ hearing for her US ed sec nomination is supposed to be Tuesday, January 17th, 2016.

After reading and studying these archived articles, I know that my perspective on Betsy DeVos has been *enriched.*

Pun intended from this governmental school teacher.

betsy-devos-7  Betsy DeVos, boating.

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

11 Comments
  1. Hmm. I downloaded and read through the responses to the “Common Questions For Executive Branch Nominees” document you linked to in the first line. It looks as though in that last question about lobbying, she just plain forgot to mention the contributions her AFC group made to the Education Task Force of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council): http://sco.lt/68d1xx. Could leaving that part out of the lobbying section possibly have been a purposeful omission? I mean, who would want to hide such a reputable record of solid legislative action http://sco.lt/8WSRYP especially when one holds, has held, or continues to promote investments in the companies that both drafted and benefit from the Virtual Schools legislation? http://sco.lt/7If281. I was looking so closely for some kind of proud acknowledgement of membership in ALEC but just kept seeing one yacht club listed after another. Please let me know if I somehow missed it or if you find any mentions at all about ALEC in your searches of documents. This post, along with the one documenting her expertise in selecting carpet swatches are my favorites so far. Thanks, Mercedes.

  2. Christine Langhoff permalink

    “This post was labor- and time-intensive, so forgive me if I cut discussion short at some points.”

    Indeed! The last thing, Mercedes, you need to do, is apologize for this long, thoughtful and useful post.

    In case anyone is new to Mercedes’ blog, you need to know that she teaches high school English FULL-TIME, and the research she does by herself, on her own time.

  3. Magnificent in depth research, Mercedes. Public schools are not now what they were when they were founded and fought for.

  4. Doug Hill permalink

    Thank you for this exhaustive list of articles, commentaries, and press releases, Mercedes.

    I know it is not a major issue at this point, but I wanted to let you know that Geoffrey Fieger, whom DeVos referred to as a bigot, was a Democratic candidate for governor not a GOP candidate.

    Thanks again for all this research.

    Doug in Michigan

  5. You are a hero, you know that? That simple. This hard work, thank you so much.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider Searches for Betsy DeVos’s Writings | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Will DeVos Disclose ALEC Activity at Senate Hearing? | EduResearcher
  3. Over 700 Students/Alumni from DeVos’ Alma Mater, Calvin College, Believe She Is Unqualified for US Ed Sec. | deutsch29
  4. Betsy DeVos’s Golden Age – Jacobin Dev

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