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Who are the some of the largest donors to the Student Advancement Foundation and what does that mean for the GRPS?

October 21, 2019

The Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization serving as the strategic fundraising partner of the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Our purpose is to raise, grow and steward funds and other community resources to support the Grand Rapids Public Schools for the benefit of its students.

This above statement is directly from the website of the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation. As someone who constantly examines the members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure and how they use their money to influence public policy, we are regularly looking at the foundations of those who seek to impose their will on the rest of us.

According to the 990 documents of foundations run by some of the most wealthy families in West Michigan, the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation has received roughly $2.5 million from the very sector that is working to undermine teacher’s unions and the very sector that supports a Neo-Liberal education model. Here is a list of the major donors to the Grand Rapids Students Advancement Foundation, based on Foundation records between 2015 & 2017.

  • Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation             $1,122,800
  • Cheri DeVos/CDV 5 Foundation                $770,000
  • Steven & Amy Van Andel Foundation      $250,000
  • Jandernoa Foundation                                  $109,500
  • Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation          $30,000
  • Peter Secchia Foundation                            $25,035
  • David & Carol Van Andel Foundation        $5,700

I sent an e-mail to the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation (GRSAF), asking them if those who contribute large sums of money have any say in what the money is used for. I will post a response, once they respond.

It is a safe assumption, however, given how foundation money often has strings attached, that these members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure would have some influence in what the GRSAF funds are used for at the Grand Rapids Public Schools. In fact, we should all be asking how this money is used by the GRPS. Does major funding from those within the Grand Rapids Power Structure, who’s members have been promoting a Neo-Liberal education model for years, impact the GRPS in any significant way? Are these wealthy families behind the push to further privatize the GRPS and create charter-like schools? Are they part of the business advisory council that the GRPS has admitted to having and do they have any saying in the curriculum at the new academies, which are clearly designed to create future workers in very specific fields?

The public deserves to know the answers to these questions and students, parents, teachers and community members demand that the Grand Rapids Public Schools practice complete transparency on all of these issues.

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