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Jeb Bush was brought in for the West MI Policy Forum to get them to adopt the same education policy platform that Betsy DeVos is pushing

September 26, 2018

Despite not being able to report in person on the 2018 West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) conference, it is still important to write about some of the things that took place on Monday in Grand Rapids.

Former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, was one of the main speakers at the WMPF conference, a conference which made education policy the focus of this year’s gathering.

So far, there has very little reporting done about the conference of business leaders and members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. The only story from the main news sources in West Michigan was a piece on MLive, a piece which focused on what Jeb Bush had to say. 

The MLive article was headlined, Jeb Bush touts education reform to West Michigan business leaders. The headline alone should tell us something about how the MLive article would frame the issue. While one could technically use the phrase “education reform” to describe what the West Michigan Policy Forum wants to do, it does not adequately communicate the reality of what Jeb Bush and those who embrace his views on education truly want to do. A more accurate description would be that the types of education policy that Bush (and the WMPF) want to adopt would undermine public education and impose a neoliberal economic model for how education is done in Michigan. Essentially, this model would seeks to attack teacher unions in public schools, privatize education and education services, promote a curriculum that best benefits businesses and allow public money to be used for private & religious schools.

The MLive article does really question the message that Jeb Bush brought to West Michigan, although they did state:

Bush also supported the expansion of charter schools and the use of public money for private and religious school tuition, the Washington Post reported.

Beyond that statement, the MLive reporter presented a very brief overview of what the former governor of Florida had to say.

Unfortunately, the MLive reporter did not verify the claims made by Bush and did not inform readers that the powerpoint he used was created by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, also known as ExcelinEd 

The MLive article also failed to inform readers that Jeb Bush is the Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, nor to they report on the mission of the organization. 

In fact, the 5 main education policy positions that ExcelinEd promotes are:

Charter Schools

Public School Choice

Education Scholarship Accounts

Tax Credit Scholarships


In addition, MLive did not bother to tell their readers that ExcelinEd is a national organization that hosts an annual summit to promote their neoliberal education model. ExcelinEd also is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network, organizations that are deeply committed to promoting a neoliberal model of education. 

One final point that MLive omitted from their brief article is that the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush is the Board Chairman of and the organization which provided the former-Governor of Florida with, also is funded by some of the wealthiest families and largest corporations in the US that also believe in the neoliberal education model – families like Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton family, ExxonMobil, News Corp, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation. Actually, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation ended their funding in 2017, once Betsy became the Secretary of Education. However, Betsy DeVos is still deeply involved in the Foundation for Excellence in Education, as she was the keynote speaker at their national summit in 2017. 

Now that we know that the West Michigan Policy Forum is committed to making “education reform” (which is code for a neoliberal education model), the focus of their efforts to lobby state politicians, its seems even more urgent that the public should be made aware of these intentions.

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