DeVos Donations Raise Disturbing Questions About Political Influence In Detroit Schools

The DeVoses “have a strong philosophical belief, but [they] also see an opportunity.”

Rick Pluta/MPRN

A family of wealthy charter school investors put more than a million dollars into the campaigns of Republican lawmakers around the time the state Legislature was deciding the fate of public and charter school legislation in Detroit.

Over the weekend, Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson wrote in his Detroit Free Press column:

The DeVos family, owners of the largest charter lobbying organization, has showered Michigan Republican candidates and organizations with impressive and near-unprecedented amounts of money this campaign cycle: $1.45 million in June and July alone — over a seven-week period, an average of $25,000 a day.

The giving began in earnest on June 13, just five days after Republican members of the state Senate reversed themselves on the question of whether Michigan charter schools need more oversight.

“The family, which is passionate about issues of charter schools [and] schools of choice… have a strong philosophical belief,” says Rick Pluta, Capitol bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network, “but [they] also see an opportunity here to see how… charter schools will play out in fixing a major urban school district.”

Around the time of the DPS legislation negotiations there was a large group of business leaders and education advocates who lobbied to include the charter school oversight piece of the proposal.

“People from the coalition came to the realization they just could never match the finances the DeVoses have,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network

Mauger notes there’s no equivalent to the DeVos’ when it comes to trackable campaign contributions in Michigan. And he points out that no single source of funding exists for Democratic candidates in the state.

To hear more from Pluta and Mauger on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.


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