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The Educational Network of Greater Grand Rapids is another front group for the DeVos family’s commitment to a Neo-Liberal Education model

February 26, 2020

Has anyone ever heard of a group called the Educational Network of Greater Grand Rapids, as known as EDNET? 

The Educational Network of Greater Grand Rapids has only been around since 2017 and states that their purpose is to, “support teachers and administrators in providing excellent and equitable educational experiences for all children in Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Wyoming.”

The mission statement sounds nice and all, but are the school districts themselves supposed to provide the necessary support to teachers and administrators?

Upon further examination of EDNET, their website states that this project is an initiative of the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation. Notice that it doesn’t say that EDNET is funded by the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, but is an initiative of the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation.

This certainly made me suspicious when I read who was behind the organization. Upon further investigation I read the following: 

We partner with nationally acclaimed organizations to bring new insights, strategies, and resources to urban educators and administrators in public, private, and charter schools here in West Michigan. And we connect schools across districts to facilitate the sharing of transformative thinking and resources.

Ok, so what nationally acclaimed organizations does EDNET partner with? There are three national organizations that EDNET partners with:

  • Leading Educators
  • West Michigan Leadership Academy
  • New Teacher Center

Leading Educators says that they began in 2008 in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. Their website doesn’t talk about what exactly they did during that time period, but numerous writers have documented that the public school system in New Orleans was dismantled and has been replaced primarily by Charter Schools. (See Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine

Leading Educators works with 8 cities across the country, including Grand Rapids. Here is what they have to say about Grand Rapids: 

With the support of the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, Leading Educators expanded to Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the first cohort of principals and teacher leaders began training in the summer of 2017. Our approach is the backbone of an ambitious strategy to significantly increase academic achievement among economically-disadvantaged young people who attend the nearly 120 district, charter, and religious schools in the Greater Grand Rapids urban area.  This work uses the greatest asset within Grand Rapids’ urban schools—experienced educators—by supporting up to 300 teacher leaders along with their principals and district administrators. This approach will provide approximately 2,400 classroom teachers with self-driven professional development opportunities, ultimately impacting 40,000 students.

In looking at who funds Leading Educators, you guessed it…..The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, listed with other Neo-Liberal Education funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

The West Michigan Leadership Academy says that it, “works to build the capacity of school and system leaders in West Michigan to envision and enact the structures, systems, and practices necessary to realize equitable outcomes for all students.” 

The West Michigan Leadership Academy is actually part of the NYC Leadership Academy, which just has a subsection on their website for the West Michigan Leadership Academy. One of the major funders listed for the NYC Leadership Academy is he Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation.

The third partner listed by the Educational Network of Greater Grand Rapids is the New Teacher Center. The work of the New Teacher Center sounds very similar to the other groups working with EDNET, stating:

NTC is dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. We build capacity within districts and district partners to drive student learning, teacher effectiveness, and teacher and leadership development. We do this by providing PreK-12 teachers and school leaders with the skills and supports needed to create optimal learning environments that accelerate students’ academic and social emotional success.

The New Teacher Center also does policy work, particularly at the state level. In 2018, they received a $12.8 million grant from the Department of Education, and while the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation is not listed as one of their funders, some of the same ideologically-driven foundations are major donors

What the Education Network of Greater Grand Rapids means to this writer is that it exists as an entity that was started by the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, partners with other national groups that are either funded by the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation or other rich people who share the same commitment as DeVos, to the Neo-Liberal Education model. If you or someone you know is involved in the Educational Network of Greater Grand Rapids, you might want to ask them exactly why they are participating in a project for teachers that was started by a family that has consistently been opposed to public education and has provided millions of dollars to candidates who can alter state policies on education, particularly in Michigan.

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