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

December 12, 2017

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 Foundation for Excellence in Education. DeVos was a member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education board of directors, until she was chosen by President Trump to run the Department of Education. As in the case of the other examples, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation have contributed significantly the Foundation for Excellence in Education

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is a group founded by former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. The mission and focus of the group is around so-called School Choice, which essentially means they promote charter schools and school privatization. 

Like many of these right wing think tanks, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) works closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council on education reform policies. FEE also is a member of the State Policy Network, which provides resources and guidance on implementing neoliberal policies at the state level.

You can read the speech that DeVos delivered at the annual education summit, but there wasn’t anything new or terribly interesting. DeVos continued her usual talking points around making students and parents her priority and why education reform – charter schools, school privatization – are necessary. 

There were two things that DeVos said, which are worth pointing out. First, DeVos thanked the woman who introduced her, Denisha Merriweather, was a recipient of at FEE scholarship while attending school in Florida and is now working for Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education.

The other comment from DeVos worth mentioning, also came at the beginning of her speech, when she said:

I’m happy to be back with so many friends at Excel in Ed, especially as you celebrate the 10th anniversary of this National Summit on Education Reform. The Summit has welcomed visionary and inspiring leaders from across government, business and academia, and, as those of you who attended the 2011 Summit in San Francisco will remember, even some friends from Sesame Street made an “unscheduled” guest appearance! I hope they’re not joining us again today!

What DeVos inadvertently does, is to acknowledge that people have been resisting the school privatization agenda for as long as she has been promoting it. Here is a short video, featuring the first Foundation for Excellence in Education summit speaker, Rupert Murdock, being interrupted in 2011.

When Betsy DeVos spoke at this year’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit, teachers again rallied to protest her visit to Nashville, where the summit was held just 2 weeks ago. 

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