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Despite the headline, MLive article doesn’t really tell us how the DeVos family influences education policy in Michigan

December 26, 2016

On Saturday, MLive ran yet another questionable story on the political influence of the DeVos Family, entitled, How the DeVos family has helped shape education policy in Michigan. This story is on the heals of an article that MLive ran last Monday that also demonstrates lazy journalism on the leading Grand Rapids news source.screen-shot-2016-08-01-at-12-31-15-am

The article is centered around President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. However, the story frames the issue in such a way as to soften, even minimize, the level of influence that the DeVos Family has had on education policy in Michigan.

In the second paragraph, the MLive article states:

“In addition to DeVos’ leadership roles for several education policy organizations, she and her family have used their money and influence as a means to shape major education policy initiatives in Michigan.”

The article never mentions what leadership roles Betsy DeVos plays in organizations that deal with education policy. It would serve the public well to have a better understanding of organizations like American Federation for Children , the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) and the Alliance for School Choice. Only GLEP is mentioned in the article.

In addition, the hyper-link provided in the MLive article takes readers to a 9 slide piece that does little to illuminate how the DeVos family has shaped education policy in Michigan. A few slides provide brief commentary on the role of the Great Lakes Education Project on Detroit Public Schools, one on the DeVos-led failed attempt to get a school voucher policy adopted in Michigan in 2000, along with several slides that make it sound as if the DeVos family philanthropy is purely benevolent. (See our article on the political nature of DeVos family philanthropyscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-3-38-32-am

The December 24 MLive article then talks about three education policy areas in Michigan that the DeVos family has had some influence; Detroit Public Schools, School Choice and Vouchers.

The section on the Detroit Public Schools is the first time in the article that we are informed about the deep involvement of the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP). The MLive story does offer up some numbers on financial contributions by the DeVos family in regards to influencing the Detroit Public School policy outcome and even links to a Michigan Campaign Finance Network article about the family’s contribution to politicians  that influenced the outcome of the Detroit Public Schools policy debate. However, what the MLive article doesn’t tell you is that in the November election, 49 of 53 candidates endorsed by GLEP won in the general election for the Michigan House of Representatives. Here is a list of those endorsed by GLEP that won in November.

• District #17: Rep-Elect Joe Bellino (Monroe)

• District #19: Rep. Laura Cox (Livonia)

• District #20: Rep-Elect Jeff Noble (Plymouth)

• District #24: Rep-Elect Steve Marino (Harrison Township)

• District #30: Rep-Elect Diana Farrington (Utica)

• District #32: Rep-Elect Pamela Hornberger (Chesterfield Township)

• District #33: Rep-Elect Jeff Yaroch (Richmond)

• District #38: Rep. Kathy Crawford (Lyon Township)

• District #39: Rep. Klint Kesto (Commerce Twp)

• District #42: Rep. Lana Theis (Brighton)

• District #44: Rep. Jim Runestad (Milford Township)

• District #45: Rep. Michael Webber (Rochester)

• District #47: Rep. Hank Vaupel (Howell)

• District #51: Rep. Joe Graves (Argentine Township)

• District #56: Rep. Jason Sheppard (Temperance)

• District #57: Rep-Elect Bronna Kahle (Adrian Township)

• District #58: Rep. Eric Leutheuser (Hillsdale)

• District #59: Rep. Aaron Miller (Sturgis)

• District #61: Rep. Brandt Iden (Oshtemo)

• District #63: Rep. David Maturen (Brady Township)

• District #64: Rep-Elect Julie Alexander (Hanover)

• District #66: Rep-Elect Beth Griffin (South Haven)

• District #70: Rep-Elect James Lower (Cedar Lake)

• District #71: Rep. Tom Barrett (Charlotte)

• District #72: Rep-Elect Steve Johnson (Shelbyville)

• District #73: Rep. Chris Afendoulis (Grand Rapids Township)

• District #74: Rep. Rob VerHeulen (Walker)

• District #79: Rep-Elect Kim LaSata (St. Joseph)

• District #80: Rep. Mary Whiteford (Casco Township)

• District #81: Rep. Dan Lauwers (Brockway Township)

• District #83: Rep-Elect Shane Hernandez (Port Huron)

• District #86: Rep-Elect Thomas Albert (Belding)

• District #87: Rep-Elect Julie Calley (Portland)

• District #89: Rep-Elect Jim Lilly (Park Township)

• District #90: Rep. Daniela Garcia (Holland)

• District #91: Rep. Holly Hughes (White River Township)

• District #93: Rep. Tom Leonard (DeWitt Township)

• District #94: Rep. Tim Kelly (Saginaw Township)

• District #97: Rep-Elect Jason Wentworth (Clare)

• District #98: Rep. Gary Glenn (Midland)

• District # 99: Rep-Elect Roger Hauck (Union Township)

• District #100: Rep-Elect Scott VanSingel (Grant)

• District #101: Rep-Elect Curt VanderWall (Ludington)

• District #102: Rep-Elect Michele Hoitenga (Manton)

• District #103: Rep-Elect Daire Rendon (Lake City)

• District #105: Rep. Triston Cole (Mancelona)

• District #106: Rep-Elect Sue Allor (Wolverine)

• District #107: Rep. Lee Chatfield (Levering)

• District #108: Rep-Elect Beau LaFave (Iron Mountain)

Lastly, the MLive information on the Detroit Public School issue doesn’t reflect anywhere near what independent, grassroots media has reported on this. See this powerful article from the Voice of Detroit on how the undermining of public education in Detroit is both an attack on black children and working class families. 

School Choice and Vouchersscreen-shot-2016-08-01-at-2-10-42-am

The remaining two sections of the MLive article are even thinner than the section on the Detroit Public Schools. On the matter of School Choice, the article states, “DeVos and her affiliated groups also supported a 2011 law that lifted Michigan’s cap on charter schools.” Unfortunately, the MLive article provides no specifics in terms of which candidates were provided with funding to promote the increase in the number of charter schools in Michigan.

The section on vouchers merely mentions the failed DeVos-led attempt to get a ballot initiative passed in 2000 that would divert money away from public education to private and religious schools.

While we have come to expect this type of journalism from MLive, it doesn’t mean we have to accept it. Time and time again, MLive makes sure that any reporting having to do with the DeVos family doesn’t ask any serious questions or even attempts to investigate the real power and influence they have on education and so many other aspects of life in Grand Rapids and throughout the state.

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