Betsy DeVos Watch: The Education Secretary once again speaks to an organization that the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation gives money to

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

One pattern, which has emerged in the first year that Betsy DeVos has served as Secretary of Education, is that she has a tendency to speak at events hosted by organizations that she and her family foundations have provided substantial funding to.

In July, DeVos spoke at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual gathering.  Betsy, and several members of the DeVos Family have been a financial contributor to ALEC over the years. Then, just a few months ago, the Acton Institute hosted their annual gathering, where DeVos was again the keynote speaker. Betsy DeVos and other members of the family have contributed substantially, but the Secretary of Education used to sit on the board of the Acton Institute. Betsy’s mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, is a current member of Acton’s board.

Less than two weeks ago, DeVos was the keynote speaker at the annual education summit hosted by the…

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Success Academies: Can No-Excuses Charter Schools Be Called Progressive?


An important piece by Rebecca Mead in this week’s New Yorker takes us into Eva Moskowitz’s very controversial Success Academy charter schools in New York City. Mead explains the point of her piece: “For all the controversy, one question has, surprisingly, been overlooked: What are the distinguishing characteristics of a Success Academy education?”

Mead’s subtitle names a contradiction at the center of Moskowitz’s educational theory: “Inside Eva Moskowitz’s Quest to Combine Rigid Discipline with a Progressive Curriculum.” Even as Moskowitz defends the rigid and punitive discipline for which her schools are famous (In Mead’s piece, Moskowitz is quoted as defending the suspension of young children out of school as an important way of impressing a lesson on children and their parents.), Moskowitz claims John Dewey, the father of progressive education, as a guide to what happens in her schools. Moskowitz describes her curriculum as an example of progressivism—“circle time on…

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House Republicans Release Proposal for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act


Last Friday, as the U.S. Senate was debating and passing its version of the tax overhaul, House Republicans introduced a major bill—a proposal for reauthorization of the 1965 Higher Education Act.  Just as it took longer than the recommended five years to reauthorize the K-12, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (from  passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001 to passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015), Congress has delayed updating the Higher Education Act, which was supposed to expire in 2013. Everyone predicts months of debate on the issues proposed in the new House bill.

The bill is 542 pages long, which makes it impossible to summarize comprehensively.  Recent reports from Benjamin Wermund at POLITICO Morning Education, from Daniele Douglas-Gabriel at the Washington Post, from Andrew Ujifusa at Education Week, and from Douglas Belkin, Josh Mitchell and Melissa Korn at the Wall Street Journal

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More School Closures Planned in Chicago


Last week the Chicago Public Schools announced a massive plan for school mergers and closures.  Here is Juan Perez, Jr. for the Chicago Tribune: “(F)our South Side schools would close over the summer and the district would send hundreds of displaced students to surrounding schools. One building would be demolished to make way for a new high school, and privately operated charter schools would take over two other sites… Students at two predominantly African American elementary schools near downtown would merge with more diverse campuses.  One of those buildings, in the growing South Loop area, would gradually convert into a new high school.  In addition, Hirsch, one of the city’s lowest-enrolled high schools, would share space for a privately run charter school program that’s backed by a local megachurch and a foundation headed by hip-hop artist Common… The proposals will be the subject of public hearings in January ahead…

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The original GOP Tax Bill would have benefited one of the most far right colleges in the country that many West Michigan elites support – Hillsdale College

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

It is not a stretch to say that the GOP Tax Bill will continue to war on working people, the poor and disproportionate communities of color. This graphic here, makes it clear who the primary beneficiaries are with the tax bill.

However, in addition to how this tax bill will benefit the rich, there are other aspects of it that we should pay attention to. For instance, there is a provision on page 289 that, “would exempt certain colleges from a special tax on university endowments. It would only apply to colleges that: 1. Did not accept federal funds, and 2. Had an endowment of at least $500,000 per student.” 

There is actually only one college in the entire country that meets this requirement – Hillsdale College, located in the southern part of Michigan.

Hillsdale College has an interesting history and is one of the colleges in the…

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Will Congress Get Around to Reinstating the Children’s Health Insurance Program?


As Congress returns after Thanksgiving, members face a complicated calendar.  They must pass a budget bill by December 8 (or another continuing resolution and an eventual budget by year’s end) to keep the government from shutting down, deal with tax reform that is a priority of the President and the Republican Congress, and deal with another try at changing the Affordable Care Act—something that has now been tucked into tax reform.

And then there are some smaller things, including reinstating the Children’s Health Insurance Program that Congress allowed to lapse on September 30.  What kind of society puts tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy ahead of medical care for its poorest children?

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was always a bipartisan effort—originally sponsored by Orin Hatch, a Utah Republican and Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.  CHIP is a program for the children of the working poor;  it covers…

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New “Charters and Consequences” Report from Network for Public Education Is Essential Reading


The Network for Public Education’s just-released investigative report, Charters and Consequences, paints a picture of corruption and the needless destruction of one of our society’s long-prized civic institutions. You’ll read about “charter schools gone wild” in California, where barely staffed storefront resource centers—sponsored by school districts 50 or 100 miles away—accrue state tax dollars to their sponsors’ operating budgets even as the sponsors do very little for the charter schools they supposedly oversee.  And you will read about Pennsylvania, where by state law, the charter gets every dollar—state and local—that would have been spent on the child in her public school, on the assumption that the local school district can reduce its expenses child-by-child, ignoring stranded costs for buildings and transportation and a school district’s inability instantly to resize its teaching staff.

The new report was researched and written by Carol Burris, the retired, award-winning NYC high school principal…

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Tax Slashing Predictably Reduces Government’s Capacity to Do Its Job

Beastmasters starving the beast.


Commenting for the NY Times yesterday on the tax reform bill being rushed through Congress, Peter Goodman and Patricia Cohen explain: “The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.”

This warning about the persistent effort to reduce government should frighten those of us who worry about government’s capacity to educate the 50 million children and adolescents who fill public schools across our states. Perhaps you are taking comfort in the fact that fiscal responsibility for schools is shared by local, state, and federal governments, but it…

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Criminalizing panhandling again in Grand Rapids

Street panhandling or Corporate panhandling?
I think I know the answer. You too?

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The City of Grand Rapids once again is proposing a “ban” on panhandling in Grand Rapids, despite the fact that the ACLU has won a case against the city for a previously attempting to stop people from engaging in street panhandling.

In the name of public safety, 1st Ward City Commissioner Dave Shaffer, is proposing a new policy be adopted by the City of Grand Rapids, which would limit where and when people who are street panhandling can solicit financial support. (see new proposal)

However, this new proposal continues to sweep under the rug the harsh reality that there are plenty of people in this community that are struggling to survive. We know that Grand Rapids has the largest wealth gap in the state, according to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute but such acknowledgements in Grand Rapids are hard to come by for a city…

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We’re Rich and We Do What We Want: A DeVos Family Reader

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

The following post is taken from the Introduction to the DeVos Family Reader, which can be downloaded at this link

In Howard Zinn’s monumental book, A People’s History of the United States, he constantly juxtaposes the amazing things that people did to fight for liberation and the people behind the systems of oppression that social movements were fighting against.

This is exactly why I have spent years monitoring, investigating and critiquing the DeVos Family. They are the most recognizable and powerful manifestation of the systems of power and oppression in West Michigan. Now, I know there are plenty of people who share the belief that without the DeVos Family, Grand Rapids wouldn’t be where it is today. I fully agree with that belief, but for reasons that are the exact opposite of those who hold the most powerful family in West Michigan in high regard.

When Rich DeVos and…

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