Betsy DeVos’s Michigan legacy

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos’s resume includes education reform efforts that reshaped Michigan schools. But student test scores have gone down in the past two decades.

It’s clear how Betsy DeVos wants to change public education.

It’s equally clear how hard Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education will push, and how much she’ll spend, to make those changes.

What’s less clear is whether her remedies for public education -- unveiled in Michigan over more than two decades -- actually help students learn.

The academic rank of Michigan students compared with peers in other states has dropped dramatically since DeVos’s biggest policy victories: the expansion of charter schools (most run by for-profit companies), and breaking down barriers to students attending schools outside their home district, known as school choice.

Even her critics laud DeVos for her guiding principles -- that all students deserve access to a quality education and shouldn’t be trapped in a failing public school.

But DeVos’s dogged commitment to policies that have yielded, at best, mixed results in Michigan raises questions about what lessons she would take to Washington, as well as about her willingness to listen to viewpoints outside her free-market ideology.

Ideology and test scores

Perhaps the best example of Betsy DeVos’ impact on state education policy can be seen in Detroit, where today just one-in-four of the city’s students attend Detroit Public Schools. About 46 percent attend charters, the majority of which are in the city, with other students traveling to classes in districts outside of Detroit -- policies that are the hallmarks of DeVos’s K-12 orthodoxy.

Her influence in Detroit was seen most recently in May, when the the House and Senate squared off on a proposed plan to reorganize and the state-controlled Detroit Public Schools and rescue it from a crushing debt of $750 million.

The state Senate passed a rescue plan that mirrored a proposal hammered out by a bipartisan group of legislators, educators, Detroit leaders and foundations. That proposal would have created a Detroit Education Commission with the power to approve or deny locations for new schools in Detroit, including charters.

Such monitoring is common in most states that allow charter schools. But giving a government body oversight over charters is anathema to Michigan’s powerful charter school industry, and to its most powerful benefactor, DeVos.

That’s true even in Detroit, with the nation’s worst big-city test scores, where some charters are excellent, but most have test scores that are about the same or worse than the city’s traditional public schools. In 2013-14, 70 percent of Detroit’s charter schools ranked in the bottom quarter of all Michigan schools, according to the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit education policy and advocacy organization.


Even so, DeVos and her powerful lobbying group, the Great Lakes Education Project, or GLEP, lobbied to kill a commission they feared would inhibit charter growth.

Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, which played a lead role in organizing the coalition of leaders that drafted the proposal, said she recalls Republican members of the House being called in to closed-door meetings with GOP leadership. One by one, Republicans who had previously been in favor of the Detroit Education Commission emerged from meetings to say they were now against it.

Within two months of those closed-door meetings, GOP lawmakers and the state Republican Party received $1.45 million in donations from the DeVos family.

By June, a $617 million rescue plan passed, but the DEC was no longer a part of it, leaving the city still without oversight of charters.

What is surprising about that story is not that a wealthy, politically active woman influenced public policy, but that DeVos put her stamp on the schools of a city that, by Allen’s account, DeVos said she knew little about. Allen told Bridge she had traveled to West Michigan in 2014 to seek DeVos’s advice on how to improve Detroit’s failing public schools. According to Allen, DeVos demurred, saying, “I don’t know Detroit.”

"We won the public policy debate over whether (school choice) is working or not,” Allen said, but “GLEP won the politics.”

A powerful influencer

DeVos, who declined to be interviewed for this article, wins in no small part because of her ability and willingness to write big checks.

Born Elizabeth Prince, DeVos, 58, was born into privilege. Her father founded a lucrative auto parts company, and her brother founded Blackwater USA, the private military and security firm that faced controversy for its contracting work for the U.S. government in Iraq.

She and husband, Richard “Dick” DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune, donate generously around Grand Rapids and nationwide (including $22 million to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.) Betsy DeVos toiled for years in the state and national Republican party, rising to lead the state party twice. She is chairwoman of The Windquest Group, an energy technology firm. The power couple has held fundraisers for presidents and invested in causes ranging from a think tank, evangelical groups and political action committees to a right-to-work crusade and anti-tax ballot measures.

But in no area of public life have Betsy and Dick DeVos made more of an impact than in Michigan schools. Neither has a professional education background, and Betsy and her children did not attend public schools. She has nevertheless used her pocketbook and political influence to reshape the state’s K-12 landscape.

Over the past decade, in its crusade to expand and protect charter schools from regulation, the DeVos family has donated at least $6.1 million to the Republican party and state lawmakers, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan group that monitors the role of money in Michigan politics. The Republican legislature’s lifting of restrictions on Michigan charter schools led to a glut of schools, especially in poor communities like Detroit.

Today, there are more than 300 charter schools in Michigan, more than double the number in 2000. Michigan also has far less government oversight than in most states, little leverage to close or demand improvement from charters, and has the highest-percentage of charters run by for-profit companies in the country.

But while the traditional public school establishment focuses on charters’ lack of accountability, DeVos has effectively turned the focus on the establishment's failures.

“We believe that the only way that real education choice is going to be successfully implemented is by making it a bipartisan or a non-partisan issue,” DeVos said in 2013. (The whole interview can be read here.) “Until very recently, of course, that hasn’t been the case. Most of the Democrats have been supported by the teachers’ unions and, not surprisingly, have taken the side of the teachers’ unions. What we’ve tried to do is engage with Democrats, to make it politically safe for them to do what they know in their heart of hearts is the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is often prodded by money.

In the last two years alone, Betsy and Dick DeVos and other DeVos family members donated $3.4 million at the state level. That’s more than was donated by the United Auto Workers and the Michigan Education Association (the state’s largest teacher union) combined.

“The DeVos family is a political donating force unlike anything else in Michigan,” said Craig Mauger, executive director of Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “We don’t know what’s in a lawmaker’s mind to make an ultimate decision. We do know this family has gotten what they wanted and this family is the number one donor to a lot of lawmakers and groups making the decisions. Those are the facts we know.”

“The DeVos family is a political donating force unlike anything else in Michigan,” said Craig Mauger, executive director of Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “We don’t know what’s in a lawmaker’s mind to make an ultimate decision. We do know this family has gotten what they wanted and this family is the number one donor to a lot of lawmakers and groups making the decisions. Those are the facts we know.”

Eileen Weiser, a Republican on the State Board of Education who was recruited to run by Betsy DeVos in 1998, said the state is better for DeVos’s influence.

“She passionately believes that every child deserves a quality education regardless of income level or home zip code,” Weiser said. “She supports quality schools, whether public or private, traditional or charter, online or located nearby in schools of choice.

“While working with her I've watched her call for debate; listen attentively; propose initiatives that can improve student learning; and then work through all obstacles to implement good strategies for children.”

A price of dissent

Listening, debate and being open to others’ ideas all seem like good characteristics for the nation’s top educator. But that wasn’t Paul Muxlow’s experience with DeVos.

A Republican from Brown City, in Michigan’s thumb region, Muxlow was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 and is considered a conservative on most issues. “I toed the line” on DeVos policy proposals, Muxlow said. “I voted right along with my fellow conservatives.”

With one exception.

In December 2011, Muxlow voted against removing the cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the state.

“I have 10 school districts I represent,” Muxlow said. “All of them are little, local public schools, from 500 students to a couple thousand. When the vote came along, I simply said, ‘I would support (more charter schools) in areas where there are failing (traditional public) schools. But if you put a charter school in my little part of the thumb of Michigan and take 25 kids out of the school, you’re really putting them in bad shape.’”

The bill still passed the House 58-49, with Muxlow voting no. The bill also passed the Senate and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Even though the bill passed comfortably, GLEP, which is primarily funded by the DeVos family, spent $184,000 to try to defeat Muxlow in the Republican primary in 2012.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Betsy and Dick DeVos have been candid about the cost of not supporting their charter and school choice policies.

“I’ve voted for almost everything the DeVoses wanted,” Muxlow told Bridge. “I’d walked a parade for Dick Devos when he ran for governor (in 2006). And then they ran the dirtiest campaign against me. The Devoses took it upon themselves to try to beat me.”

Muxlow won that primary by just 137 votes, but he said the money spent against him in the primary had a chilling effect on fellow legislators who feared the steep price they would pay for disagreeing on education policy with the DeVos family.

“The DeVoses run K-12 in Lansing,” Muxlow said. “I don’t think it’s a secret. They’re all in on charters, and there’s skimpy little difference in performance in most cases.”

Michigan’s steady fall

Charter schools, originally sold to Michigan residents in the mid-1990’s as a way to improve student learning and bring innovation to the state’s staid public school system, have performed roughly on par with the state’s traditional public schools, with some excelling and many others average or struggling.

A Bridge analysis of 2014 test scores adjusted for student poverty levels found that some charters were among the highest-performing schools in the state, but even more were among the worst. About 31 percent of charters were in the bottom quarter in academic performance when poverty was taken into account, compared with 24 percent of traditional public schools.

In 2000, Michigan students scored above the national average in 4th grade math and English and 8th grade math and English on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, known as the nation’s report card. By 2015, Michigan was below the national average in 4th grade math and English and 8th grade math, and was at the national average in 8th grade English. Michigan is ranked in the bottom 10 states for fourth-grade reading, a key indicator for educational success.

Those plummeting rankings are likely the result of many factors, but it’s undeniable that choice and charters haven’t stopped the slide.

“It’s hard for me to get mad at anyone who’s in the game to try to make the lives of children better, compared to people who sit on the sidelines and point fingers, even if we disagree,” said Michigan School Superintendent Brian Whiston. “I support choice and charters, but that’s been the philosophy for 20, 25 years, and it hasn’t improved education.”

Echoing others, Whiston said innovation has to be matched by demonstrated success. “I would like (the state’s) choices to be (informed) by research on what we’ve learned works,” he said.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of GLEP, acknowledges that Michigan is “not doing better (academically) than we were 20 years ago,” when there were fewer charters and much less ability to choose what school your child will attend.

But he contends that school choice and charters are “not the cause” of the state’s school struggles. Instead, he blames a “dramatic lack of accountability” in failing traditional public schools and poor communication with parents about the difference in quality between schools. “There are three legs to the stool, and choice is just one of them,” Naeyaert said.

Naeyaert also notes that while charters have had mixed success, a study from Stanford showed that students attending Michigan charter schools on average “gain an additional two months of learning in reading and math over their (traditional public school) counterparts,” and an additional three months in Detroit.

As it happens, one of the state's more successful charter schools was founded in 2010 by Dick DeVos, with Betsy's encouragement. This year, the 490-student West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids was ranked among the state's best high schools when adjusted for poverty by Bridge Magazine's Academic State Champs.

Too much choice?

Detroiter Roosevelt Bell is the kind of parent Betsy DeVos probably has in mind when she promotes school choice. He took his daughter out of Detroit Public Schools after two years of waiting fruitlessly to see upgrades to subpar facilities. He passes by two nearby traditional public schools near his home to take his daughter to the Detroit Service Learning Academy, a charter school founded by the YMCA.

Bell said he knows there are good and bad in public and charter schools because his daughter has attended both. “I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into taking my child to a school I didn’t like or she didn’t feel comfortable in,” Bell said. “If I like the school two miles down I’m driving my daughter there.

“Choice is comfortable for parents because now you can pick and choose.” Bell said. “All we want is to be able to have a choice. That should be what every American wants, to have a say so in the matter.”

Detroit parent Arlyssa Heard has a different story. She has enrolled her sons in traditional public, private and charters schools over the years. Her 11-year-old son is now a fifth grader at the James and Grace Lee Boggs charter school, which she likes for the individualized instruction her son gets.

She said Detroit parents have plenty of choices, but lack quality choices. Competition has led Detroit’s public schools to close more than two-thirds of its buildings, leaving some neighborhoods underserved by schools and others teeming with too many.

“How much time have the DeVoses spent inside some of these homes with kids who go to three to four different schools? Or kids who are trapped in neighborhoods where there’s only one school left?” Heard asked.

“There are some kids trapped in neighborhoods with no schools because parents don’t have a car or are working too many jobs and don’t have the wherewithal or know how to navigate the chaos. Yet we hear from the DeVos family that parents want choice,” Heard said. “We want choice, but we want quality choice right in my neighborhood. I want good choice. I don’t need six different principals in three years … or a school closing a week before school starts,” she said, referring to University Yes Academy, a westside charter that shut down its high school days before school started this fall.

Sandy Baruah, leader of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a well-connected Republican who is similarly torn. He’s uncomfortable with the lax oversight and disparate quality of charter schools in Detroit, but also knows that many parents are happy to have choices for their kids.

The DeVoses “were instrumental in bringing the ability to charter schools to the state of Michigan,” Baruah said. “Every parent who has found a good charter school option in Detroit to send their kid to should be thankful.”

Choice goes up, test scores go down

Sarah Lenhoff, an assistant professor in Wayne State University's College of Education, is among a team of researchers studying the effects of open enrollment school choice programs. She said charter schools in Michigan do not live up to the promises made when they were legalized in the 1990s, unlike states where charters schools are more regulated.

“The initial impetus for charter schools was to provide an element of competition with traditional public schools. If you had to compete for students, the logic is, schools will come up with unique curriculum designs that will improve all schools,” Lenhoff said.

“What we’ve seen in Michigan is somewhat of an open, completely free market where there’s very, very little regulation,” Lenhoff said.

And, too often, inadequate information.

A study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University found that students who moved to another school district through schools of choice policies didn’t improve their test scores. There may be other benefits for students taking advantage of school of choice policies, said study author Josh Cowen, associate professor of education at MSU, such as perceived safety or social issues.

But if schools of choice is a policy aimed at improving learning, it hasn’t worked.

“Some people confuse means and ends in education, and that can be a problem,” said Michael Rice, superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools. “Choice is at best a means to an end of higher student achievement, it’s not the goal itself. And we’ve had choice for over 20 years in the state, and our (academic) ranking (among states) has declined substantially.”

Another Bridge analysis of schools of choice data found the policy had the unintended consequence of increasing segregation in some districts. The analysis found that students, both white and black, are more likely to move to districts that are less diverse than their home districts.

“I have no doubt they believe what they are promoting is good,” said Vicki Markovich, who recently retired as superintendent of Oakland Intermediate School District, of the DeVoses’ education policies. “Unfortunately, their efforts have focused on a very narrow view of education.”

Michigan stands alone

There are lessons that can be learned from other states that get beyond the ideological battles that have sometimes stymied meaningful reform in Michigan. In 2014, Bridge visited four high-performing or fast-improving states to see how they are making gains in education.

Some of those states have strong teacher unions and others do not. Some have robust charter schools, others don’t. Some spent more in education than Michigan, others less. Some were red states, others were blue. What they shared was a bipartisan commitment to high academic standards, teacher training and a willingness to put money where it’s needed most – supporting low-income and other high-risk students.

More coverage: What Michigan schools can learn from leading states
and Massachusetts charter schools are few but mighty


Massachusetts, long the model for public school education in the U.S., has outstanding charter schools. But there are a small number of them, and they are highly regulated by the state. Last month, voters there overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed for the broad expansion of charter schools.

“I hope she looks at what’s worked in other states,” Markovich said of DeVos. “Providing quality education is complex. When you’re working in a field, trying to work around the issues of poverty, it can’t be fixed with a single solution.”

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David Lipton
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 9:47am
Unfortunately in Michigan we do not have complete choice. Only when we open up the opportunity for parents to choose private K-12 education (secular or faith-based) will we see an improvement in learning. That is the sector of education that shows the best results.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 1:34pm
My daughter went to a parochial school for her first four years . When we found out that she was receiving less than 30 minutes of math education during her fourth year do to the school needing more time for religious teachings My wife and I chose to move our daughter to the local public schools . My wife and I had to work on my daughter's math skills at home through much of her fifth grade term to bring her up to the public school's level . A parochial school education does not guarantee a good education .
Jarrett Skorup
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 9:54am
So Bridge Michigan does a whole report card for every district in the state which adjusts for the socio-economic status of students and Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes which matches students in Detroit traditional schools and charters, holding for income, gender, language, race, etc. and follow them for years. But the first chart ignores the poverty background of students in order to try and say charters serve students worse. That is a bit strange.
Ron French
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 1:26pm
Thanks for reading Bridge, Jarrett. The reason the chart you reference is where it is in the story isn't strange at all. Let me explain. Bridge, like most publications, try to place charts, maps, photos, pull-out quotes, etc., near where they are referenced in an article. The anecdote about the fate of the Detroit Education Commission is near the top of the story. For context, we included background on the performance of DPS and Detroit charters. That's why the chart is there, rather than lower in the story, where we reference the CREDO study and Bridge's own poverty-adjusted rankings. Putting the Ed Trust chart low in the story, away from the references comparing Detroit traditional and charter schools, and instead running, say, the photo of Rep. Paul Muxlow high in the story, wouldn't make much sense to readers. There's really no more to read in to the placement of the chart. No conspiracy here, just trying to tie story elements together. Again, thanks for reading. Ron French
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 1:45pm
The point of the charter schools is to allow the students from poor backgrounds to receive a better education than their public school system can give . This is not the case for most of the charter schools serving poorer students . THAT is the point being made by this article . If you research the subject a majority of charter schools in Michigan do no better and many worse at educating their students than the public school system . That is also the point of this article . Hiding the failures of a system is what the republican right does . Take a look at Kansas and the right wing republican tax plan failure there . The right wing republican governor continues to hide and deny his plan failures . Bribing public representatives is not going to fix Michigan or Detroit's school issues .
Ben DeGrow
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 9:58am
"If you research the subject a majority of charter schools in Michigan do no better and many worse at educating their students than the public school system." See the best available research on the question ( •Michigan charter students gain two months of extra learning per year compared to their peers in traditional public schools. •47 percent of Michigan charter schools significantly outperform traditional public schools on reading, 1 percent underperform, about half perform at same level. •49 percent of Michigan charter schools significantly outperform traditional public schools on math, 7 percent underperform, 44 percent perform at same level.
Thu, 12/08/2016 - 11:22pm
I would suggest reading the Stanford CREDO report closely. First of all, they quite wisely worked to base their results on comparisons of students in local public schools and demographically similar students from the same location who attend charter schools. As the authors acknowledge, this means that the overwhelming majority of local public school students in Michigan were not included in the study because there were insufficient numbers of charter students to make a comparison. As a result, the study is really a comparison of Detroit students who attended DPS with Detroit students who attended charters. The fact that these two student populations might differ in ways not captured by Free and Reduced price Lunch statistics and other standard metrics is hard to dispute. Second, the claim of "two months more learning" is based on a very dodgy interpretation of the fraction of a standard deviation that separates mean test scores between the two kinds of schools. A fraction of a standard deviation difference between mean scores does not equate to a certain amount of days of learning. While the difference in means was statistically significant, the actual score differences were not especially large by real-world standards. That's the same problem with Mr. DeGrow's summary of the results: the "significance" of the higher or lower performance was in terms of statistical significance, meaning not due to chance. Whenever you have very large numbers of cases in a study, it is possible to get a statistically significant difference that is in fact quite small by absolute standards. An average difference of one point out of 600 may not be due to chance, but it is not a meaningful difference in the real world. In sum, the CREDO study serves to confirm that the charter schools included in the study - overwhelmingly from Detroit - for the most part performed the same as DPS schools or had very modestly better scores. They may indeed have other benefits, such as smaller class sizes or safer environments. But these benefits are not unique to the charter model; with adequate funding for highest needs and smart rather than punitive policies, local public schools could serve their students much better. Our first priority should be to ensure local public schools are offering a top notch education to students. Choice on top of that, including charter schools, is just fine. But we have fallen prey to the idea that charters can actually replace our local public schools. The evidence shows that they do not consistently do any better, and might well be overwhelmed if they had to serve the high special needs populations that are characteristic of urban school systems.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:11am
People should note the comparison chart used in this article is one subject, one grade, and one sub-group. When you look at ALL grades, ALL subjects and ALL students -- those in Detroit's charter schools outperform those in Detroit Public Schools -- across the board. But typical of The EdTrust-Midwest, and unfortunately here by Bridge, this is another case of using partial information to make an advocacy point. Let us know when folks are willing to look at all the data and have a serious policy discussion.
Lola Johnson
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:33am
Clearly Ms DeVos is not looking for a serious policy discussion. Her policies are entirely driven by political ideology and religion. She is only interested in using tax money to prove the rightness of her position and forcing it down the throats of everyone else. She has not been good for Michigan education and will not be good for the nation.
Ron French
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 1:31pm
Thanks for reading, Gary, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us for this article. You're completely correct that the chart you reference is not an "overall" score chart. Point taken, and it's completely fair to point that out to readers. It's also fair to point out to readers that elsewhere in the story are references to overall score analyses, one from Stanford that suggests Michigan charters perform slightly better than traditional schools, and one from Bridge that suggests that there are some excellent charters, but that there are a higher percentage of charters that are low-performing than the percentage of traditional schools that are low-performing. NEITHER does well enough for our kids. thanks for reading, Ron French
Charlie Schreiner
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:19am
I was involved with getting 3 charters strand periodic performance requirements to be passed to first establish, then keep the charter. The problems running a charter school of the biggest problems are the facility and transportation. Charters in affluent neighborhoods do better than in other areas mostly because they have better parent participation and wealthy donors. Teachers don't get paid enough in either the charters or the other public schools. Teachers, in addition to their teaching duties, are required to create fund raisers for basic supplies in the classrooms. I know of crowd sourcing on the web for the same reason. It is plain and simple. All schools need much more funding in MI. Better pay will bring better teachers and teachers need better pay. Why then, in anyone's right mind, would you want to send kids to a school where they are syphoning money from the school and sending those funds to wealthy investors? A scheme has been figured out how to slight the children and line other's pockets and the scheme has been renamed a "charter school." For Profit no way to produce a good educational environment in our state.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:26am
Another slanted Bridge article (though with a lot of non-partisan info). First off, the primary exhibit...8th grade math scores at schools > 50% african american in 2013. Other subjects? Other years? Schools that are 47.3% african american? (how many charter schools are there in Detriot that are <50% african american?). What are the relative enrollments in the failing vs. succeeding charter schools? Fundamentally, parents choose to send their kids to these schools instead of the public system. If they are "failing", why would they? Convenience? Fear of public schools? Graft? I don't know. It is revealing that ~75% of Detroit students eschew the public system. No wonder it is in disarray, disregarding mismanagement and corruption. Of course a huge factor must be the grip of the MEA, who of course restrain needed retrenchment. How do you counter the public school cartel? ...with tactics that eclipse theirs. Voila'.
Douglas A. Pugh
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:27am
I found the article well balanced, informative, and helpful in a number of ways Thank you.
Donna Anuskiewicz
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:40am
i have a hard time with bullies, and Mrs. DeVos appears to be one. No one person, no one family should run public K-12 education. With the $184,000 the DeVoses spent against Muxlow, I could have bought books for my classes, brought in speakers, bought tickets to concerts. I did these things but not on the scale Mrs. DeVos can. What public schools need is not ideology, not even choice, but excellence for all. We should not begin reform with "answers" but with questions and the first question should be what does each school need to succeed.
Sue Grange
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:41am
I have two friends who took teaching jobs at charter's in southeast Michigan because they could not get into public schools. Disaster! We regularly take up collections or purchase items at garage sales to help them stock their classrooms with paper, pencils, books, and even furniture. Elementary education for kids should not be for sale. Not every aspect of a strong society can or should be privatized. Mrs. DeVos about getting what you pay for: . “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “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.” “People like us,” she added archly, “must surely be stopped.”
John Mills
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:41am
Interesting story, but Bridge is pretty much plowing ground that's already been plowed. Ron and Chastity do seem fixated on skewing the data to fit their agenda. It's also laughable that they make it seem like the DeVoses are the first people who have ever tried to influence public policy by making campaign donations. Hello? Ever hear of the MEA? The MEA also spends millions to try and influence legislation, and they also punish candidates who go against them by running people against them in the primary. The DeVoses and GLEP are just much better at it.
Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:39pm

That people with money influence politics and public policy is not new and may or may not be a revelation to you or I. But remember that new generations are entering into the discourse at all times and reiterating what may seem obvious or unnecessary to you or I, helps provide background information to others. With Ms. DeVros' entry into national politics, I say, the more information, the better!

James Diem
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 10:52am
Ever since Gov Engler, Michigan legislators have slammed Michigan teachers to get themselves elected. Very few of them have any experience in education but they believe they know what's best for Michigan students. They all should be required to go to their local schools and try to teach before they make any legislation regarding education.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:04am
Every Dem -- and many Republicans -- have something to say about the Devos appointment. I mean other than the two people, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, who do actually have a say. You get pretty good look at the problem by attending to their silence.
Mad Dog
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:14am
The end game: A feudalistic failed state teeming with low-information serfs. Michigan is indeed a political laboratory.
Oliver Twist
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:37am
Mad Dog says "The end game: A feudalistic failed state teeming with low-information serfs. Michigan is indeed a political laboratory." Actually, this would follow on the heels of educational circumstances in Arkansas ( and Oklahoma (
Dan Quisenberry
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:20am
The body of evidence shows us Michigan charter schools are working for Michigan students. Analysis from Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, simple comparison of MSTEP scores, graduation rates and other available data will show you that Michigan charter schools are a better choice for parents in Michigan and particularly parents who live in communities faced with intense poverty whether Detroit or rural parts of Michigan. And charters students get less per pupil, making the return on taxpayer investment even higher for charter public schools than with traditional districts. There is another perspective worth thinking about follow this link to learn more:
Oliver Twist
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:43am
Gotta love it when somebody links to themselves as another informed, authoritative, dare I say, objective source. Good one, Dan.
Richard Stevens
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:25am
Well, I guess we are finally there - a dead democracy where only money matters. And the money can, and likely will, come from sleazy sources (Amway, Blackwater as examples). Amway is a scam (like HerbaLife, Invocare, etc. and other Amway wannabe scams) and yet here we have Trump and the DeVos scammers sitting at the head of our 'government' (kleptocracy). Sad indeed.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:32am
I am not surprised by the selection of Betsy Devos by Trump. She is driven ideologically, is an autocrat, and has lots of money that makes her believe she is right. Devos is the privileged elite, who has no understanding of the real world. Devos lives in her own reality, and as described in the article, don't cross her or you will be "punished". This is what the advent of Trump brings to us. He lives in his "own reality", and don't cross him or he will "lock you up". That republicans will tolerate the steady decline of performance for our children is a disgrace. But then again, there is no moral compass in our state government at this time, and I can only hope people are paying attention. The education solution is very simple: You look at the national or international best practices and see what their results are. As stated in the article: "Massachusetts, long the model for public school education in the U.S., has outstanding charter schools. But there are a small number of them, and they are highly regulated by the state. Last month, voters there overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed for the broad expansion of charter schools." Wake up people.
Steven Korpusik
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:46am
I find it interesting that the three heavy pro-charter hitters responded so quickly to this. Yes, I'm quite sure you can defend your policies through the use of a variety of statistics and studies. But here's the thing: educational studies have generally become very politicized. Depends on who commissions the study. (Stanford's CREDO for example uses an odd methodology and is financed by the Hoover Institution which leans heavily conservative.) So, in reality I don't trust any data study that comes from institutions on either side because they have an agenda to support or promote. I am not against school choice as a general rule. I am against it in the manner in which we currently have it in Michigan. This is because both entities do not have equivalent ability to compete in the "market." Charter schools have specific advantages that they can leverage. For example, the ability to usher students out for whatever reason is well known. Couple this with the practice of not filling empty seats the following year and you end up with an undiluted school where students have all gone from day one. This creates an adherence to the community that is valuable. But a public school does not have that convenience. So when schools are so heavily judged by test score metrics, the quality of the student body is a better indicator than the quality of the school itself. And kids must go to school somewhere. Sorry, but if ALL schools cannot play by this rule, then it's a fixed competition. It's like saying that we can both start clothing lines but one of you cannot use cotton. Look, if guys like Naeyaert, Skorup and Quisenberry really want school choice then ALL schools have the same rules and procedures regarding transparency, retention, expulsion, availability and transportation. That's something like the DEC would have been about. But the DeVos family and their surrogates did not want that. They want unfettered markets. But we're talking public money here. and the public deserves to know where that money is going and that rules aren't essentially picking winners and losers. The DEC would have been a step toward a more common set of regulations.
Ben DeGrow
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 10:47am
One can choose to disregard the best available research evidence because of CREDO's perceived affiliations, yet the findings still stand. Overall, the comparisons of district and charter school performance are reasonable and fair. Transparency: School districts and charters are subject to the same academic and financial data reporting, FOIA, and open meetings laws. Admission and Expulsion: Michigan Compiled Laws 380.504(2) "A public school academy shall not charge tuition and shall not discriminate in its pupil admissions policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a student with a disability, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district." Availability: Charter school enrollment capacity is governed by the charter contract, with extra applications subject to lottery. On the other hand, when it comes to facility space, charters do not have access to any millage or bond funds that are available to districts. Transportation: Neither school districts nor PSAs are legally required to provide student transportation.,4615,7-140-6530_6569_38338-137337--,00.htmlOther primary differences relate to the tenured and pension status of employees.
John Q. Public
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 8:45pm
"Transparency: School districts and charters are subject to the same academic and financial data reporting, FOIA, and open meetings laws." Sure they are. The charter school board contracts with a private, for-profit management company to provide "educational services." They disclose that the contract is for $5 million per year--and the management company, as a private entity, isn't required to disclose a thing. You know, like the services they provide cost $3.5 million, and the company C-suiters keep the rest.
barbara switalski
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:02pm
My fellow Americans, follow the money!!!!!! Make sure that you do that for all public Schools and Charters. See what districts get $14,000 per student and what districts get $7,000. Be sure to note the growth of the west side of our state and the wealth of their PS school districts too. Then explain to your children why the East side of I -75 is our fault line! It is sad to see but one day at a Flint concrete jungle site rings the truth. And by the way don't drink the water!
Bonnie Smith
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:06pm
Diane Ravitch, professor of education at New York University and a historian of education, has some interesting things to say about charters and public education in her book, "Reign of Error." We don't consider this much, but as she points out, educating a child begins in the womb before that child is even born with good prenatal care and nutrition. And the family that child is born into is important, too. Studies indicate that poverty is the number one inhibitor to a child getting a good education. Poverty affects nutrition and access to health care when needed, affects exposure to things like libraries and museums and concerts, comfortable clothing for each season, and friends with similar interests. Education is not a philosophical contest or a political football game. A child's future hangs in the balance, as does that child's community, that child's nation. Schools in Finland have the highest rates of achievement. Why? Discover those and apply them to our own educational system.
John Rose
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:23pm
The only folks the DeVos family have assisted are their rich friends, making them richer with private charter schools. Education has been steadily dropping in Michigan and the only way charters get credit is that they "cherry pick" those students that they want and still show no significant progress versus traditional schools. ALL SCHOOLS NEED TO BE GOOD SCHOOLS!!! Who want their kid to go to a poor performing school? Unfortunately those who are poor, and without resources such as a car to drive are the ones who seriously suffer through this. It is very disturbing that someone with money, and no educational experience , has so much power and they are destroying public education. No worries though, rich connected kids (like the DeVos who never went to public schools) will be fine. Poor folks and those with no choices are the ones to suffer..and oh yes the DeVos friends making a lot of money on charters are better of as well.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:30pm
Charter Schools were originally setup to pilot new and innovative ways of teaching, often targeting lower and At Risk kids. They were supposed to be nonprofit and set up by an existing educational entity, like a school district or college or university. Then if the new methods worked well this was to be shared so other schools could also emulate the successes with at least some of their kids. Somehow the for-profit "corporate" school movement came in under the radar of Charter Schools and we suddenly saw many wealthy Republicans, and some Democrats, showing an interest in inner0city youth, etc. as a way to get a foothold by bringing in Charter Schools that were in fact for-profit schools set up as businesses. Now Wall Street Hedge funds, etc. see this as a great moneymaking opportunity as most Charter Schools have targeted "profitable" grade levels and offer less services and much lower paid teachers. School funding in Michigan is per student but full-service nonprofit school districts know that it may cost far more than the $7,300 the state provides for students at a full service high school filled with science labs, a swimming pool, lots of technology, veteran teachers with Masters degrees, extensive music, arts and athletics, etc. At these schools it can easily cost over $10,000 per student, but at their elementary schools that have far less expensive needs, the cost may be only $4,000 per students. These Wall Street investors and the Charter Schools companies see this as a way to make big money, which they do! They often will open a K-6 or K-8 schools with minimal extras and a low paid low experience staff. They may give out free iPads, etc to attract students but still easily pocket perhaps $3,000 profit per student. Multiply this by hundreds of thousand for millions and you can see the financial attraction of investors and billionaires. Yes it is mostly all about money! If they truly cared about the kids all of these schools would be nonprofit and these billionaires would be working WITH current educators so we could plan Charter and various alternative schools to truly meet the needs of our lowest performing students. The best role Charter Schools could have in Michigan is to focus on the bottom 20 percent of students. They often have challenging needs and could benefit most through a specialized program and environment. But the kids of course are not the main focus of the investors and the politicians they donate to. As it is now Charter Schools likely do far more damage in Michigan than good! The overall underfunding of nonprofit Michigan schools and the unjustified vicious attacks on teachers, by many of these same politicians and their financiers, have caused great harm to Michigan education and the ability to attract top talent in the future. This also will harm our economic outlook as employers find less full-service nonprofit schools, strongly supported by their communities, filled with experienced veteran teachers. Personally I fear for the future of Michigan education if our current system is replaced by all for-profit schools with low paid "temp" teachers. Communities across Michigan have taken great pride in their local schools and now the "big government" in Lansing and their financiers are taking aim to undermine and replace them with much worse options. Just so a few people can make a lot of money!
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 3:24pm
Where do I begin? I would very much like to see an in-depth discussion of who, specifically, is profiting from these for-profit schools that Ms. DeVos has worked so hard to keep unregulated. I have watched her brother privatize military services and get paid handsomely for it through his mercenary contracting company, Blackwater/Xe/Academi. He's currently worth $2.4 billion. In turn, I don't know but wonder if Ms. DeVos is personally profiting on a large scale from charter schools. It is certainly curious that a billionaire non-educator has fought so viciously against transparency, regulation, and accountability in these charters. Of course there is big money to be made in privatizing government service. When taxpayer dollars are diverted to private hands from taxpayer-accountable organizations like the military or public schools, investors win but often the mission suffers from the diversion of dollars from providing direct services to that of enriching private individuals. It's the golden ticket. If you get a dollar from the state to educate a child, but a big chunk of that dollar in a for profit school has to go back to financial investors, the child is the ultimate loser. Please, Bridge, tell us specifically where our taxpayer dollars are ultimately going from those charters.
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 9:23pm
Start with the home. Spend a day in a early elementary class and see what comes to school that first day. Drop 25,30 35 kids in a class and say I will be back in 7 or 8 hours to pick them up. They come ill fed,ill clothed, unloved, and cared for, now let those teachers work their magic. Pay a teacher a living wage for their 4 or 5 years of school and keep going back for your required continuing certification. Good luck. Quit beating up the teacher, and spread the successes and failures around. The tax payer should not pay to send children to parochial schools. I spent 10 years in them and my parents paid for all four of us. We all make choices. R.L.
John Q. Public
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 12:08am
"...Republican members of the House being called in to closed-door meetings with GOP leadership. One by one, Republicans who had previously been in favor of the Detroit Education Commission emerged from meetings to say they were now against it. Within two months of those closed-door meetings, GOP lawmakers and the state Republican Party received $1.45 million in donations from the DeVos family." While no fan of this article's protagonist, we elect (over and over, I should add) a parliament of whores, a bunch of followers who fancy themselves leaders, and then blame their customers?
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 8:30am
And we wonder why people are cynical of Government. Promises made promises broken. Maybe we have met the enemy and it is us. Money is power, and with power follow the money. God have mercy on our children and grandchildren. Peace R.L.
Plan 9 From Out...
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 8:41am
While former charter school management company head Steven Ingersoll's years-long excursion through federal court appears to be drawing to a close, it's important to note Ingersoll's shocking diversion of an estimated 5 million dollars from the Grand Traverse Academy has yet to be investigated. And while it's a complex story, here's why you should care: it's your money. I bring you “Ingersoll 101”, the backstory of this financial scandal. At the start of each fiscal year, (beginning July 1, 2007 and continuing for six years through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013), Grand Traverse Academy (GTA) manager Steven Ingersoll withdrew his entire annual Smart Schools Management, Inc. fee from the Traverse City, Michigan charter school’s bank account before it had been earned — and before he was contractually entitled to receive it. Although ostensibly based on a percentage of the GTA board’s approved preliminary budget figures, Ingersoll’s management fee was necessarily “adjusted downward” after actual budgets were calculated at the end of each year. Ingersoll booked the overpayment on the GTA’s balance sheet as either “accounts receivable” or a “prepaid expense”, claiming them as “assets”, concealing the school’s shaky financial condition. The scheme was apparently supported by then board president Mark Noss, who explained it away in a September 17, 2014 Interlochen Public Radio interview: “There were times when the resources were just not there. So Smart Schools basically pledged or rebated that money back, saying ‘at some point in time we will repay what we’re calling a prepaid expense.’” However, Ingersoll never really repaid the difference between the amount he'd advanced himself (“what we’re calling a prepaid expense”) and the actual management fee he should have received. So how did the receivable grow from $538,864 on June 30, 2007 to $3,551,328 on June 30, 2012 if Ingersoll, as he’d claimed in multiple financial documents to the GTA board, booked each year’s fee overpayment as a receivable and paid it off at the beginning of the next fiscal year? Simple: after Ingersoll paid the previous year's receivable balance using Michigan state aid money provided to the Grand Traverse Academy, he then transferred that money back days later from the Academy’s bank account to one of his Smart Schools accounts, and created a new, and even larger, receivable balance. (Ingersoll finally admitted the multi-year scheme on December 9, 2015 while testifying during his still ongoing sentencing hearing). Representatives of the GTA board, including its then-president Noss, met with attorneys from the Thrun Law Firm and Steven Ingersoll on May 20, 2013. During the meeting, Ingersoll admitted owing the charter school at least $3.5 million but asked to have the debt classified as a “loan”. According to the May 30, 2013 Thrun Law Firm legal recommendation to Noss and the GTA board, the issue before the board related “to funds withdrawn from the Academy’s general fund by Steven Ingersoll and/or representatives of SSM, which exceed the amount appropriated or authorized by the Board to be paid to SSM for either management fees or the reimbursement of Academy expenses.” The letter estimated Ingersoll’s debt to the Traverse City charter school at $3,548,319 (based on information provided by Ingersoll’s handpicked CPA, Tony Henning). As Henning had relied solely on “financial reports and representations of Steve Ingersoll” to determine the amount, Thrun repeatedly urged the GTA board to “independently verify the full sum due” instead of merely accepting Henning’s number. Representing the interests of the GTA and its board, not Steven Ingersoll and Smart Schools Management, Thrun affirmed in its May 30, 2013 letter that “Steven Ingersoll openly admitted, when asked by us during the May 20th meeting, that a conflict exists between his personal interests and the interests of the Academy.” However, the GTA board ignored Thrun’s recommendation to verify Ingersoll’s numbers, instead using CPA Henning’s exact $3,548,319 amount in its June 13, 2013 “demand letter” to Steven Ingersoll. On June 30, 2013, the GTA board and Ingersoll agreed on a “repayment plan”, revealing the details in the Academy’s 2013 financial statement. The agreement allowed Ingersoll to “work off” his balance by foregoing management fee payments over the remaining three fiscal years of his management contract. However, a November 25, 2013 letter from Doug Bishop, the GTA board’s former attorney, to Michigan Department of Education auditor John Brooks revealed one stunning exception: although the board of directors, headed at that time by longtime Ingersoll business associate Mark Noss, publicly stated in the Academy's 2013 financial statement its decision to credit Ingersoll's future management fees against his $2.38 million dollar “prepaid expense” balance until it was reduced to zero, the Board still authorized a cash payment of “approximately $332,000 in pre-obligated, annual debt service of SSM with regard to GTA has agreed to pay to SSM.” After publicly revealing in its 2013 financial report, and sticking to the story that Ingersoll would be working off his prepaid balance by foregoing any future management fee payments, the Grand Traverse Academy board instead paid Ingersoll $332,000 so he could have the cash flow necessary to make payments on a personal, unspecified Smart Schools Management business debt. GTA board president Mark Noss later oversaw an early morning meeting on March 19, 2014 where the board voted unanimously to officially “withdraw from the management contract with Smart Schools Management, Inc.” Minutes later, the board accepted the resignation of “Mark Noss as the President of the Board.” Although Noss tendered his resignation during this meeting, the resignation was not effective immediately. GTA records revealed Noss continued to serve in a dual role as a board member until its May 2014 meeting, nearly two months after signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar management contract. Steven Ingersoll was indicted on April 9, 2014. Ingersoll was charged with three counts of wire fraud, two counts of tax evasion, one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, and one count of attempted conspiracy. (Four co-defendants, including Ingersoll’s wife Deborah, were also charged on various fraud and conspiracy counts). An April 24, 2014 superseding indictment further charged Steven Ingersoll with tax evasion regarding his attempt to “disguise the money allegedly received from Grand Traverse Academy” —which was also named by the government as the motive for the bank fraud conspiracy and tax evasion conspiracy. Steven Ingersoll was convicted of three counts of fraud and tax evasion on March 10, 2015. (Ingersoll’s sentencing hearing began on October 21, 2015 and is scheduled to resume December 15, 2016.) On March 15, 2016, an accountant formerly employed by Mark Noss at his Full Spectrum Management revealed to the GTA board and the charter school’s authorizer, Lake Superior State University, that Noss had been making $12,500 monthly payments (and in some months, much more) to Ingersoll since April 2014, shortly after Noss assumed control of the GTA. Using information provided by the whistle blowing accountant, (who resigned shortly after making his revelations public), federal prosecutors were able to substantiate that between April 8, 2014 and March 1, 2016, Steven Ingersoll received a total of $627, 624.14 from Full Spectrum Management, the educational services provider owned by Mark Noss and holder of the management contract for the Grand Traverse Academy or Grand Traverse Academy itself. All of that money went into accounts owned by Steven Ingersoll and his solely owned entities. An excerpt from the April 29, 2016 document: “In assessing the credibility of Habermehl as a witness and Noss as an affiant in this matter, the court must consider the relationships they have with Ingersoll and how their financial and personal relationships with Ingersoll have influenced the representations that Habermehl and Noss have made to the court. The evidence discussed above casts doubt on the credibility of Ingersoll, Noss and Habermehl.” In a December 5, 2016 court filing, government prosecutors stated the following: “The GTA board at all relevant times has been controlled by Ingersoll’s friends and business associates. The GTA board as an entity was not victimized by Ingersoll’s diversion of per pupil state aid from that publicly-funded school. It cost the GTA board nothing to acquiesce in Ingersoll’s manipulation of the GTA budget to conceal his diversion of funds that should have been used to educate GTA students. By his conduct, however, Ingersoll did victimize the students, faculty and staff of the GTA, as well as the tax-paying public at both the federal and state level. In fact, now that Ingersoll is (hopefully) prevented from engaging further in his shell-game financing of his self-aggrandizing Bay City Academy project with Grand Traverse Academy funds, the continued viability of BCA is becoming increasingly questionable.” There is an important story here. Ask yourself why you've never heard of it.
Steven Ingersoll
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 8:27pm
Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of a number of pseudonyms used by Essexville resident Anita Senkowski. Ms. Senkowski has posted over 3,000 online pages viciously attacking Grand Traverse Academy, Bay City Academy, charter schools in general, my family and me. She has worked at her defamatory craft on a daily basis for nearly four years. One might speculate that an unnamed funding source supports her daily output of distortion and shameless falsehood. Such speculation might come to mind when one considers that Brent Pilarski, President of the Bay County Democratic Party was quoted in the Bay City Times saying, "we got him". Local unions aggressively used their political influence to recruit the aid of local, state and federal governments in their nefarious efforts to preserve the educational status quo in Bay City. Active MEA member and State Representative Charles Brunner has repeatedly abused his position to support union interests at the expense of his community by calling for the closure of Bay City Academy, a school he called in the Bay City Times "that joke of a school". Mr. Brunner ignores the fact that Bay City Academy has the highest M-STEP scores in Bay County and is based on Michigan's highest performing charter school educational model, the Smart Schools model that I helped create and brought to Bay City. Ms. Senkowski and her union handlers also fail to mention some history readers may find interesting: 1) Store purchased rats were planted at Bay City Academy on the first day of school in its inaugural year of 2011, 2) On August 22, 2012 EPA SWAT team agents simultaneously burst into both of the rapidly expanding BCA campuses with drawn military assault weapons scaring the daylights out of the 60 teachers assembled for training. EPA special agent in charge, Mike Pemberton, claimed to be responding to tips of asbestos mishandling. 3) In August of 2013 the Justice Department indicted the building contractor for alleged asbestos violations, 4) During Christmas break 2013 vandals sledge hammered 26 holes in plaster walls of yet another campus of BCA. Each hole exposed an asbestos wrapped pipe previously embedded in the wall. The vandals left a copy of the building blueprints open to the steam pipe schematic. Union picketing complete with chants of unsafe building soon followed. 5) In 2014 the Justice Department issued indictments against me, my wife, my brother, my contractor and his wife alleging misuse of school and bank funds along with various wire fraud and tax violations associated with the alleged misused funds. After savaging me and the fine schools that I helped create Ms. Senkowski's "fake news" posting conspicuously failed to report that after three years of litigation and study the U.S. 6th Circuit Court concluded in its findings of facts : 1) Denial of all Government allegations involving either school, 2) Denial of all Government allegations of misuse of school construction funds, 3) Denial of all Government allegations of bank fraud 4) Denial of all Government allegations of wire fraud 5) Denial of all Government allegations of obstruction of justice, 6) Denial of all Government allegations of false financial reporting, 7) Denial of all requests for restitution of allegedly mishandled school funds, 8) Denial of all Government (IRS) attempts to disallow all deductible expenses. The Government charged a total of 23 counts against 7 defendants, 5 defendants were completely exonerated. The Government successfully convicted me of two counts of 26-7201 of the IRS code that states that I am guilty of "impeding the IRS in its duty to collect taxes" and one count of 18-371 which states that I engaged others to help me in a plan to underpay my taxes.The convictions arose from improper documentation of movements of my money between my wholly owned companies. Ultimately, after several years of tax lawyer arguments, it was determined that I had not properly documented some inter-company transfers resulting in a tax liability. The Court found the schools that the Democrats are so feverishly attempting to smear had nothing to do with this case!
Steven Ingersoll
Thu, 12/08/2016 - 7:18am
I erroneously referenced the U.S. 6th Circuit Court, the correct Court is the U.S. 6th District Court.
Rosemary sotok
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 10:26am
Some of you are ridiculously uninformed! Charter schools could not receive state funds if they financially benefited De Vos. She does not need any financial benefits . Duh! The De Vos / Prince families have contributed more to local communities than you could ever imagine. Why do some people resent anyone who has made money and then tries to give back??
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 1:26pm
Thank you, PLan 9. You have educated us all. Your story is horrifying, but ultimately only shocking if we assume that people invested in these for-profit schools are actually interested in educating children more than they are interested in becoming rich on the backs of those same kids. I make no such assumption. Rosemary, with all due respect, I would like to ask you to read PLan 9's impeccably sourced commentary above and then you will understand why questions arise about people who push investment in charter schools so diligently and then oppose transparency and accountability in their management. Without regulation and responsible oversight you get convicted felons like Ingersoll stealing from schools, taxpayers and kids. It's a ready-made public trough from which they feed. Re the DeVos family: It's a mixed bag. They have donated to hospitals and parks but I also remember when they laid off 1,000 workers in 2005 in West Michigan while building a manufacturing plant in China. I have watched the family use its wealth and political influence as a hammer to force compliance with their political agenda and also divert massive amounts of money to causes I find to be morally repugnant. I have looked at the FTC rulings and court actions filed against Amway/Quixtar for questionable business practices. I never resent wealthy people, but there are some that I respect. Others, I don't.
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 3:05pm
Would it be safe to say the when a parent chooses to leave one school option for another (unless they moved or something), it is generally because their child isn't doing fantastically well at the school they left? I('d really doubt it's for the for the opposite reason.) And would be safe to say that many kids in this position are disproportionately challenging (PC) learners? When you have charter schools or any other schools for options are you creating an adverse selection situation when looking at most transfers? So to not use these facts in comparisons isn't realistic. So why not leave the decision to the parents (who actually know their kids) discretion? Its complicated enough, so why is it anyone else's damn business where a parent chooses to send their kid?
John S.
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 11:49pm
The important line: " What they shared was a bipartisan commitment to high academic standards, teacher training and a willingness to put money where it’s needed most – supporting low-income and other high-risk students." Maybe it's not about public vs. charter or schools of choice. Maybe it's about, as the above begins, about high standards, well-trained and experienced teachers, capable and stable administration, stable curriculum, hard work (homework), and parental involvement. A safe and welcoming school environment will help, along with additional tutoring for high risk students. The debates about public vs. charter and schools of choice are ideologically and politically driven, involve well-heeled adults squabbling about authority and money, and are getting old and boring.
Thu, 12/08/2016 - 7:17pm
She bought herself the job.
Thu, 12/08/2016 - 7:22pm
She bought herself the job. Public schools can thrive if the money was given to them to teach. But no, they have to decrease the amount, which is making the public schools fail. There are a lot of good, caring teachers who want to teach but because of some state mandates the teachers are drowning in paperwork requirements. Which leaves teachers who are feeling like failures and frustrated because of not being able to do what they are called to do: teach our children.
rae yearnd
Sat, 12/10/2016 - 3:37pm
there is so much more to a public.private,or hopefully charter school education that is not quantifiable from a Sanford or back in my day a Iowa, or any federal or state test. Although not easy to put a number on, or for this article important I would like to know a little more about that part of the story. Although testing was not as frequent in the 60s and 70s I do remember the stress level of my teachers even back in 5th grade. I would like to see a nationwide GRE for all those receiving education degrees before they receive their diplomas. Since we are all about the numbers why don't we start with the Teachers first?
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 12/11/2016 - 1:00pm
As long as education continues to be a battleground for political and economic gain, our children will suffer. If Charters fulfilled their original purpose as a place for innovative experimentation and not for profit, progress could be made. Choice is as democratic as anything American. However, when the few benefit and the effects on those children left behind continues to threaten those mostly segregated communities, school districts and families, something needs to change. Pro-charter apologists can continue to bandy about the CREDO report, but it is only one among many. They are not really wanting a frank discussion on the issue; they have an agenda, a vested interest. Competition always results in winners and losers. However, we need a safety net for those who want to take advantage of it. Yes, I understand there are those students and families who do not value education and will not take advantage of educational opportunities. We can't afford to ignore the problems of public schools in Michigan; choice and charters have only made matters worse. They don't have to and it doesn't have to be that way. We need to do better for all, both charters and public schools.
Sun, 12/11/2016 - 6:31pm
Interesting column seems their is a inherent bias against the lady, charter schools and then supporting teacher Union sound bytes.
Karen J McFarland
Thu, 01/19/2017 - 6:29pm

Some charter schools receiving public funding do not accept students with disabilities. With Michigan's lack of oversight, even though this is illegal, they get away with it. Public funding going to charter schools causes traditional public schools to fail from a starvation diet. "School choice" is just a catch phrase to disguise the real objective of starving the public schools into oblivion.