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Betsy DeVos moderates panel of carefully selected people to promote the Let MI Kids Learn Ballot Initiative

February 2, 2022

On Wednesday morning, the Let MI Kids Learn campaign hosted a 45 minutes zoom call, featuring former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

In late October, 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. Then in November, GRIID reported as a response to Gov. Whitmer’s veto of the legislation passed in October, the Let MI Kids Learn campaign had begun to undo Whitmer’s veto and put the issue on the ballot in 2022.

Betsy DeVos spoke briefly at the beginning of the forum, making her usual remarks about so-called school choice, critiques of public education and how parents are not included in their children’s education. All of these claims have been her main talking points since she began to work on dismantling public education over the past several decades.

Nothing of what DeVos had to say was new. However, what was both interesting and instructive, were the other people who were part of the zoom call.

The forum was hosted by a staff member of Let MI Kids Learn, Amy Hawkins. Hawkins runs and operates Generation Strategies, which claims to help group deliver their message. Hawkins is part of the Conservative Christian movement and her website says that her work is trusted by the likes of Hillsdale College, Unlock Michigan – which opposed the Stay at Home orders in 2020, Sen. Mike Shirkey and Citizens for Traditional Values, to name a few.

Those who were hand picked to be on the zoom call with Amy Hawkins and Betsy DeVos were Celeste Mentag, Jay & Kate Woodhams, Cameron & Shante Pickford, Jimmy Greene and someone named Shayla. Shayla, who claimed to be a public school teacher, never gave her last name, never named the school she worked for and said that she had her daughter in a private school.

Celeste Mentag is part of the Detroit Founders Classical Academy This school is sponsored by the Conservative Christian school Hillsdale College. The website for the school isn’t very transparent, plus there wasn’t a great deal of information for the public to access. However, the Facebook page for Detroit Founders Classical Academy was rather telling. There are posts saying that schools are teaching the Black Lives Matter principles, other posts that are dismissive of Critical Race Theory and Charlie Kirk, who is with the far right group Turning Point USA

There are similar posts on Celeste Mengas’ Facebook page, such as anti-CRT posting and even a meme with Trump 2024.

Jay and Kate Woodhams did not identify with a particulate group and they were both reading from a script.

There was also Cameron & Shante Pickford, who identified as homeschooling parents. What they didn’t tell you is that Cameron Pickford is the communications director for the DeVos-created political group, the Michigan Freedom Fund, and has been in that position since 2017.  

The other person who spoke on the forum hosted by Let MI Kids Learn, was Jimmy Greene. Jimmy Greene is the President of Associated Builder and Contractors of Michigan, who spoke most about students learning trades so they could better enter the workforce. Greene is also a Black Conservative, who has endorsed John James (heavily funded by the DeVos family) and many other Republican members of the the Michigan Legislature. 

One thing we know about the DeVos family is that they are very strategic and that do not want to be part of efforts unless they can control the narrative. This zoom call with Betsy DeVos, which was hosted by the Let MI Kids Learn campaign, clearly demonstrated that they only wanted people invited to present who would present the same ideological and political views that the DeVos family has been about for the past three generations.

If you want to endure the content of this forum, you can watch it by going to this link.

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