The Politex Report #1186

DE VOS AND TRUMP: KILLING PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR CHRIST

# ...Jerry Falwell Sr. outlined the goal in his 1979 book "America Can Be Saved!" He said he hoped to see the day when there wouldn't be "any public schools - the churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them."

Vouchers are part of the program. According to an educational scholar, they originally came into fashion among Southern conservatives seeking to support segregation in schools. But activists soon grasped that vouchers could be useful in a general assault on public education. As Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, which receives support from a DeVos-funded donor group, explained: "Complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now."

The DeVoses well understand that, stripped of specious language about reform and choice, such a plan for public education would be deeply unpopular. In 2002, Mr. DeVos Jr. advised a Heritage Foundation audience that "we need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities."

The public school system faces the most immediate threat, but it is not the only institution at risk. The Christian right has already won a number of key roles in the Trump administration.

The head of the presidential transition, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, is an avid voucher proponent. As governor of Indiana, he expanded a voucher program that now funnels$135 million a year to private schools, almost all of them religious. Mr. Trump's nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, favors religious tests for new immigrants and objects to chief justices with "secular mind-sets." The nominee for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is a member of a physicians' organization aligned with conservative Christian positions on abortion and other issues.

Mr. Trump's senior strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, may not appear to be a religious warrior, but he shares the vision of a threatened Christendom.

"I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis," he said at a conference in 2014. This was "a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism."

What is distinctive about the Christian right's response to this perceived crisis is its apocalyptic conviction that extreme measures are needed. There is nothing conservative about this agenda; it is radical. Gutting public education will be just the beginning.

--Religious Education: Betsy DeVos Sees Herself As God's Plan for Public Schools, Since Jerry Falwell, Jr. Nixed Job. https://t.co/oennpc6U2s

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Betsy DeVos stands at the intersection of two family fortunesthat helped to build the Christian right. In 1983, her father, Edgar Prince, who made his money in the auto parts business, contributed to the creation of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as extremist because of its anti-L.G.B.T. language.

Her father-in-law, Richard DeVos Sr., the co-founder of Amway, a company built on "multilevel marketing" or what critics call pyramid selling, has been funding groups and causes on the economic and religious right since the 1970s.

Ms. DeVos is a chip off the old block. At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to "advance God's kingdom." In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to "greater kingdom gain."

And so the family tradition continues, funding the religious right through a network of family foundations - among others, the couple's own, as well as the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, on whose board Ms. DeVos has served along with her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the military contractor Blackwater.

According to Conservative Transparency, a liberal watchdog that tracks donor funding through tax filings, these organizations have funded conservative groups including: the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal juggernaut of the religious right; the Colorado-based Christian ministry Focus on the Family; and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

--Betsy DeVos and God's Plan for Schools. NYT https://t.co/oennpc6U2s

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Public (School) Enemy No. 1: Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump's Pick for Education Secretary https://t.co/xrwYnQuAb8

Trump's Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years https://t.co/BosFVtJ6qp

Trump's Betsy DeVos and Their Plan to Break Public Schools NY https://t.co/J2xyl9L6YX

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School choice gutted Detroit's public schools. Under Trump, the rest of the country is next. – VICE News https://t.co/ClN0dvGKCq

No Regulations Whatsoever: Trump's Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools. NYT https://t.co/nwQ1PltwqM

Trump's choice for education secretary raises fears in Detroit https://t.co/JluUQMDikL

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Can Democrats Save Public Schools from Trump and DeVos? https://t.co/zfcw1hfS2z

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