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In anticipation of Whitmer veto, Michigan GOP has begun a petition campaign to allow the use of public money for private and religious education

November 7, 2021

Last week, it was announced that the Let MI Kids Learn ballot committee was forming, in order to begin collecting signatures for a ballot campaign that would essentially support the very legislation that Gov. Whitmer plans to veto.

On October 24, we reported on the Senate and House bills that passed in the Michigan Legislature, bills that will do what Betsy DeVos has been attempting to do since 2000, with her failed school voucher ballot initiative.

In the article from late October, we laid out 4 tactics that the DeVos family has been using to get public money to support private and religious education. Those tactics include – the financial backing of candidates who would embrace such policies, to attacked public teacher unions, to utilize the expertise of far right think tanks in Michigan, and to create their own education-centered non-profit, the Great Lakes Education Project. 

The passage of this legislation was a test for Governor Whitmer: she could stand with families and children, or she could stand with special interests. Sadly, but predictably, Whitmer chose the special interests – as she always has. But Michigan’s constitution gives voters a recourse, and our petition drive will allow voters to expand opportunities for children, even if Whitmer won’t.”

The above comment comes from Rep. Bryan Posthumus, one of the state legislators that the DeVos family has provided thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The DeVos family, especially through the group the West Michigan Policy Forum, has continually attacked public teacher unions, which is the second tactic they use. The DeVos-led effort around these bills also has the support of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is the 3rd tactic they employ. Lastly, the DeVos-created Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) has been a major champion of these bills and will likely support the ballot initiative that the Let MI Kids Learn organization is moving forward with.

Let MI Kids Learn needs to collect 340,000 valid signatures from registered voters for both petitions in six months. 

Spokesperson for Let MI Kids Learn, Fred Wszolek was quoted in the Detroit News as saying, “This exciting legislation gives new opportunities to learn to children, and new choices to tens of thousands of Michigan parents. But Gov. Whitmer stands in the schoolhouse door with her veto pen, determined to strip families of any choice, and deny children the money they deserve for educational opportunities. We’re just as determined to veto Whitmer’s veto with our petition.”

Wszolek is the co-founder of the Lansing-based organization know as Strategy Works, has worked on numerous GOP candidate broadcast ad campaigns, but specializes in the passage and defeat of ballot proposals.

Fred Wszolek recently headed up a ballot initiative for Unlock Michigan, which is a campaign to prevent the Governor from adopting certain emergency policies, like we saw in 2020, when Gov. Whitmer mandated lockdown orders as a means of minimizing the harm of the COVID virus.

Interestingly enough, the address for the Unlock Michigan campaign – 2145 Commons Parkway, Okemos, MI 48864 – is the same address being used for Let Mi Kids Learn campaign. The 2145 Commons Parkway, Okemos address is also the address for Doster Law Offices, PLLC. Doster Law Officers was founded by Eric Doster, who was longest-serving General Counsel in the history of the Michigan Republican Party, having served in this position from 1992 to 2017. 

It would seem that the GOP is well organized for the Let MI Kids Learn campaign. It will be interesting to see how the Democratic Party, the MEA and those who are committed to public education respond to the Let MI Kids Learn campaign. 

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