Jennifer Berkshire writes in the New Republic that Betsy DeVos is deeply unpopular in swing-state Michigan. Voters in Detroit can see a district disrupted by a generation of failed reforms. Suburban voters like their public schools and don’t want charters or vouchers.  Berkshire notes that the Democrats are picking up unlikely victories in districts where education is a big issue.

In 2016, Darrin Camilleri was 24 and teaching at a Detroit charter school 20 miles from where he grew up, when Michigan lawmakers took up a measure to implement more rigorous oversight of the city’s charter schools. Seemingly anyone could open a charter in Detroit, and the schools closed just as suddenly as they opened. From his classroom on the city’s southwest side, Camilleri watched the reform effort fail. “Watching that play out really showed me the downside of deregulation,” he told me. “No one is holding anyone accountable.” That year, he decided to run for state representative in southern Wayne County, a largely blue-collar area that shades rural at its edges. Rather than hewing to standard Democratic talking points—health care, for instance, or Donald Trump’s erratic comments—Camilleri made charter school oversight and school funding his central issues, and in 2016, he became the only Democrat to flip a Republican state house seat in Michigan.

In the three years since Trump turned Michigan red, education has emerged as a potent political issue in the state, thanks to a steady stream of grim studies and embarrassing news stories. Between 2003 and 2015, the state ranked last out of all 50 for improvement in math and reading. According to a recent study, Michigan now spends less on its schools than it did in 1994. Republicans have slashed funding to give tax cuts to big businesses. And the number of people who choose to become teachers has fallen dramatically….

Consider the political climate in Michigan’s suburban districts. In 2018, when Padma Kuppa challenged a Republican state representative, she homed in on the GOP’s role in undermining public education and won, claiming a seat in Troy, an affluent suburban district north of Detroit that Democrats had never held before. Suburban districts like the one in Troy regularly top “best schools in Michigan” lists, with high test scores and graduation rates, and loads of AP offerings. “People here like their public schools, regardless of what party they belong to,” Kuppa said. The GOP’s steady expansion of a largely unregulated charter school sector has very little to offer voters in communities like hers.

Matt Koleszar, a high school social studies and English teacher, won his race for state representative in suburban Plymouth with a message of what he describes as “tenacious support for public schools.” His call for adequate school funding resonated in this “purple” district, he told me, but so did tying his opponent, Jeff Noble, to Betsy DeVos. Noble had scored an endorsement from the education advocacy group DeVos founded, and raised thousands from her extended family. In 2018, he even backed a controversial law to give charter schools a cut of any property tax increases at the county level. “When I went door to door, explaining to people that this meant that their taxes were going to some for-profit charter school headquarters that’s not even in the district, they were outraged,” Koleszar said….

That relationship could backfire on Trump not only in Michigan’s suburbs, but also in rural areas, where the GOP’s education policies have even less to offer voters. There, the local schools are foundational community institutions, and the conservative push to privatize public services has transferred bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and even some coaches on to the payroll of private contractors that pay less than the state does while providing fewer benefits. “When you’ve gutted all of the insurance for these jobs, they’re not that attractive,” said Keith Smith, the superintendent of schools in rural Kingsley, Michigan. Cuts have forced school districts like his to ax “extras,” such as music, counseling, and the vocational programs that prepare students to work in skilled trades….



16 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. drext727 says:

    Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:

    Go Betsy. Keep being terrible. Keep promoting charter schools (the failure that most of them are). Keep hating on public schools. Theoretically she could cost little donny Michigan, Florida and maybe a few other states that have had enough of the charter industry.(DRIPPING SARCASM)

    • Chiara says:

      I’m really pleased someone was finally, finally held accountable for ripping these people off.

      Good job, judge. Treat them like every other ordinary person who violates a court order. We have to stop giving wealthy and powerful people special treatment.

      It’s just a shame the victims had to invest so much time and energy into finally getting someone to assist them. That’s one more cost they had to pay. They should be awarded damages to make them whole for the total cost, which includes their time and energy.

      The US Department of Education should stop using public money to encourage young people to take on all this debt. It’s outrageous. They need to stop selling debt to 18 year olds. It’s unconscionable behavior. They are saddling these people with debt they will carry their entire lives, and they are very unsophisticated borrowers.

      Who exactly do they work for? It’s not students, that’s clear.

  2. dienne77 says:

    Nah. If DeVos becomes too costly, Trump will simple throw her under the bus like he has everyone else.

    • Linda says:

      Betsy and her family have more money than Trump’s other bus victims.

    • Chiara says:

      The DeVos family are genuinely powerful far Right operatives and political actors in Michigan and it predates Donald Trump and isn’t dependent on him. They have their own “constituency” among other powerful and wealthy people in the state.

      Donald Trump doesn’t know this or care about it because prior to 2015 he didn’t know the first thing about Michigan and he still doesn’t, but it’s true.

      • dianeravitch says:

        Donald Trump is geographically illiterate.
        Just yesterday, he told an audience that he planned to build a wall around Colorado. He thinks that Colorado is on the Mexican border. Later he said he was “joking.” If you watch the tape, he was serious.
        He had no education in geography.
        Maybe he can use his Sharpie to bring the Mexican border to Colorado.
        He never admits error.

  3. Linda says:

    Morning Consult has a color coded map showing states turning away from Trump.
    While Alabama may go Trump in 2020, he’s lost 14% since taking office.

  4. Chiara says:

    Here’s DeVos dodging responsibility for being held in contempt:

    “U.S. Department of Education
    We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling. We acknowledged that servicers made unacceptable mistakes.
    directed FAFSA to take immediate action to help every impacted borrower. As of today,
    FAFSA has taken the actions needed to make every impacted borrower whole.”

    For people who seem to spend most of their working hours scolding public schools on “accountability” they are VERY reluctant to accept any accountability themselves.

  5. Chiara says:

    One of the most disturbing things about DeVos at the USDOE is the misinformation she promotes.
    She recites nonsense and it gets repeated. What it amounts to is BAD ADVICE for young people because it’s not true.
    She does this under the authority of the US DOE, so people probably accept it as credible or true and it’s not.
    The worst part to me is the “jobs” stuff they promote. Welders make 40 dollars an hour! There is a massive skill gap! 65% of jobs will be gone due to automation and AI!

    I sincerely hope no 17 year is making decisions based on this nonsense. She works for the US government. She can’t go to the Department of Labor and get some accurate information? She’s content to just pull “facts” from Fox News? It’s state-funded propaganda.

  6. Linda says:

    Added evidence that the attack on public schools is steeped in misogyny and anti-black bias?
    In a report from NPE, a Kenneth Fisher, from the state of Washington, was identified as a $2 mil. donor to the campaign to defeat state judges who had rendered verdicts favorable to public schools (Bill Gates was on the same side).
    Kenneth Fisher of Fisher Investments in Washington reportedly (Huffpo) made comments so offensive that government pension funds left his firm this month- $2.7 bil. less to manage. If the Kenneth Fishers are one and the same, Fisher’s apology- why believe it?

  7. LeftCoastTeacher says:

    People have children. Yes, Betsy could certainly cost Trump the election. No one paid enough attention to the importance of Common Core’s unpopularity in the last presidential election. Public education policy affects millions of lives. It should be at the forefront of every campaign. It’s a scam that it’s not. People have children!

  8. SomeDAM Poet says:

    If Trump can’t cost Trump the election, no one can..

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