DeVos Donations Raise Disturbing Questions About Political Influence In Detroit Schools

Rick Pluta/MPRN

Craig Mauger

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.

Image credit: Washington State House Republicans

Filed Under: #djc

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.  

Wait a second, there’s more…

How A Detroit Blind Pig Became The Center Of A Social Uprising in 1967

What is Poverty, and Where Does Metro Detroit Stack Up? [Infographic]

Reporters Joel Kurth, Laura Herberg: Detroit Suffers from Lack of Home Mortgages

The Intersection: The Psychological and Generational Effects of Poverty

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Addresses Pistons Move, Racial Tensions [VIDEO]

The Intersection: Focus: HOPE CEO Talks Tackling Poverty in Detroit

What Trump's Military Surplus Reversal Means for Michigan Police Departments

How Poor are Detroit, Metro Area? Here’s What the Data Show [INTERVIEW]

The Intersection: Documentary Producer Talks Growing Up In Detroit

'How's Detroit Doing?' -- Reporters Discuss Tackling Simple Yet Thorny Question

Detroit Today: WDET, Data Driven Detroit Launch Detroit By The Numbers

The Intersection: What Is Detroit's Business Community Doing to Address Poverty?

Detroit Public TV Launches New In-Depth Reporting Program 'One Detroit'

How Does Detroit Spend $37 Million in Federal Housing Dollars? [INTERVIEW]

TechTown's Ned Staebler Talks Economic Development and Policing in Detroit

How Do We Address Widespread Student Transience in Detroit?

When $40,000 a Year is Not Enough

Detroit Family Making It Work And Working To Make Detroit Better

Michigan Cities Face Eviction Crisis -- Here Are Some Solutions

Detroit Mom Struggles to Make Ends Meet

How Dearborn Schools Opened Its Doors To Immigrant Students

Study: Michigan Dead Last in Education Funding Growth

Poverty Tells 'Heartbreaking' Stories About Families

Created Equal Podcast 02. Jacking the Media

The Lessons We're Still Learning from the Civil War

Where is Poverty in Metro Detroit? [Map]

The Intersection: Housing Conditions and Segregation [MAPS]

Think You Know How To Fix The Roads? Now's Your Chance to Prove It

Detroit: We won't move forward unless we learn to listen

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: