Politico reports on vouchers this morning. Vouchers have never won a popular vote. Public opinion polls are mixed, but the response depends on how the question is worded. DeVos and her allies have found her way around the problem: go to the legislature and give strategically to key legislators. In other words, buy their support. It works.

 

VOUCHERS HAVE BEEN A TOUGH SELL – AT LEAST WHEN PUT TO A VOTE: President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to create a massive $20 billion block grant to expand charter and private school options for poor children. But when voters in states across the country have been asked if they want to send public money to private schools through vouchers, they’ve pretty much always said no, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. Since 1978, voters in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Utah and Washington all rejected measures to enact private school choice programs. And the ballot referendums lost big – none of them drew support from more than 38 percent of voters. Voters in Florida and Oklahoma, in 2012 and 2016, shot down efforts to repeal so-called Blaine Amendments – which prohibit states from spending public money on religious schools and can limit a state’s ability to fund private school choice programs. [ED. NOTE: VOTERS HAVE NEVER APPROVED A REFERENDUM TO PERMIT PUBLIC MONEY TO BE SPENT IN NONPUBLIC OR RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS. THE DEVOS FAMILY SPONSORED A VOUCHER VOTE IN MICHIGAN IN 2000, AND IT WAS DEFEATED 69-31%.]

 

– Public polling, however, has been mixed on vouchers, with support levels ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent, said Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Council of State Legislatures. “It’s probably fair to say that much of the public does not fully understand what school vouchers are,” Cunningham told Morning Education. “If anything, this history shows that going through the legislature may be an easier road towards adopting school choice policies than using the ballot.” Thanks to state lawmakers, there are 17 states (as well as D.C.) that have voucher programs, according to the council.

 

– The legislature is the route that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, has taken repeatedly over the years. DeVos, through her groups, including the American Federation for Children and All Children Matter, has pushed voucher measures – successfully – through statehouses across the country, including in Indiana in 2011. DeVos told the Philanthropy Roundtable last year that “successful advocacy requires coordinating a lot of moving parts: identifying potential legislators, educating them about the issue, getting them elected, helping them craft and pass legislation, and helping with implementation once laws are passed to ensure that programs work for children.” Showering lawmakers with money also helps – and DeVos’ groups have spent millions on candidates who support vouchers. DeVos has been blunt about the power that donations have in politics. In 1997, she wrote in Roll Call that “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”