Thursday, March 30, 2023

Betsy DeVos Is Not Done Yet

When history closes the book on Betsy DeVos. it may well determine that she did the least damage to public education during the handful of years she was officially overseeing it.

Since she left DC (making a belated attempt to throw Trump under the bus on her way out), DeVos has been doing what she has done most of her adult life-- use money and influence to try to replace public education with a privatized, voucherized, taxpayer-funded-private-christianist-school, system that operates as a free market commodity unaided by the government. 

In Michigan, she tried hard to ram through a voucher bill, even trying to buy up enough support to circumvent the Democrat in the governor's mansion. She failed (thwarted once again by a system that allows any old citizen to vote and not just the righteous and deserving ones). She published a book that I'm sure somebody somewhere read (I'm not going to read it for you--DeVos has lived rent free in my head so long that I could probably write her book for her). 

She teamed up with some of the Koch-funded crowd in New Hampshire to start a national tour for yet another version of her Educational Freedom (Definitely Not "Vouchers") Scholarship program.

She has, in fact, dispatched her American Federation for Children all across the country (complete with head cheerleader and the left's least favorite mean girl Corey DeAngelis) to help goose the push for vouchers. 

I've been collecting clippings. In Nebraska, she spent big to push vouchers (AFC's Nebraska affiliate chief said their fighting the teachers unions that want "to protect their education monopoly" which I guess is why they collected billionaire money out the wazoo). AFC and their affiliate have been funding their friends in Missouri. They have been financing the way-right crowd in Oklahoma as well as in Texas--both states where it has been necessary to lean extra hard on rural GOP legislators who correctly see vouchers as a threat to their constituents and their beloved schools. There's also been some griping among conservatives who remember that giving taxpayer money away with no oversight or accountability is not really on brand for traditional conservatives.

Georgia. Iowa. Idaho. DeVos has been busy. The sudden eruption of voucher bills is not some oddly coincidental local phenomenon, but a full court press for the nation. Way too many folks are seeing it as a local fight, when it's really a collection of coordinated carpetbaggers (or in DeAngelis's case, one with what must a ton of frequent flyer miles). 

Not to mention that she's also backing upward-failing serial school dismantler Paul Vallas in his bid for the mayor's office in Chicago. 

Unfortunately, only a handful of journalists have noted the bigger picture. Here's Tyler Kingkade at NBC News managing to both A) spot the DeVos handprints all over various states and B) correctly identify her favored voucher bills as private school subsidy bills. 

DeVos is certainly not the only person throwing millions and millions of dollars around to try to stamp out public education as we know it. Here's Connie Matthiessen at Inside Philanthropy trying to sort out all the dark money from the various proponents of school vouchers--it's both impressive and scary.

Both of those pieces, as good as they are, miss the full story of DeVos, calling her "Trump's former Secretary of Education," as if her career in defunding and privatizing public education started in 2016. Not even close. She has spent decades as a right-wing, christianist crusader. Her ineffectiveness (and ill-suitedness) in office were predictable, given her traditional method of operation has been blunt, hardball politics. Aid her in her crusade, and you have her substantial financial wind in your sails; refuse her, and find yourself primaried and cast out. 

This is the woman who, in 1997, wrote

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.

As I've conceded in the past, I may project a bit too much with DeVos. But she's my generation, and I've known lots of folks like her (well, in every respect except the filthy rich heiress part). People of faith sometimes talk about being in the world, not of it, and I think it probably drove DeVos a little bit crazy to have to pretend to go along with little godless people and follow their silly godless rules

So I imagine that once she brushed the dust of DC off her sandals, it was a sort of relief to get back to pursuing kingdom gains by following the only rules that matter, the rules that she understands God to be requiring of her

Everyone who watched her leave office and thought, "Now that this big dope is out of office, we've seen the last of her" just hadn't been paying attention. It was easy to dismiss DeVos as a dope, but she wasn't. She was just a woman who was stuck in a job she was unqualified for in every important way. But the job she had before that--crusader for kingdom gains wielding a big fat sword of money given to her by God because she deserves it and will use it to His Will-- is the job she has prepared for and practiced her whole life. And now she has that job again.

She's got a strategy, a vision, a personal hired army, and a pile of money that would make Scrooge McDuck drop his flappy jaw. She is not going away any time soon, and it would be a big mistake to stop paying attention to what she's up to, because she is absolutely not done. 


  1. George Washington Carver has a lot to say to all of us. Many quotes worth pondering. Especially about hate.

  2. Betsy DeVos has been living in my head since her father-in-law started pushing vouchers in the early 1970s. So fifty years. I grew up surrounded by Betsy DeVos types--all Christian hat, no cattle.