Saturday, January 21, 2017

Betsy DeVos and the Blunt connection

After watching the confirmation hearing of President Trump's Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, it was painfully obvious that she knew little or nothing about education.

For decades, the DeVos family has contributed millions to candidates in her efforts to push vouchers and unregulated charter schools, and it should come as no surprise that some of that money has made its way to our own Sen. Roy Blunt, who undoubtedly will vote to confirm DeVos.

Federal Election Commission records show Blunt received $29,300 from the DeVos family for his successful re-election campaign last year. The family contributed $8,800 to Blunt six years earlier.

But Roy Blunt's financial connection to Betsy DeVos runs far deeper than the $38,100 he received during his two campaigns.

In 2004, Betsy DeVos provided the money that enabled Blunt's son, then Secretary of State Matt Blunt, to barely defeat former State Auditor Claire McCaskill for governor.

At the time, DeVos headed the pro-voucher group All Children Matter, which was started by the DeVos family and billionaire John Walton, a member of the family that owns the Wal-Mart empire.

At the time Missouri had campaign finance limits in place, but there was
no limit to the money someone could use to pay for advertising opposing a candidate. During the final weeks of that 2004 gubernatorial campaign, All Children Matter spent $196,252.33 on attack ads against McCaskill, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

Blunt defeated McCaskill, who had defeated incumbent Gov. Bob Holden in the Democratic primary, by a margin of 51 to 49 percent.

When openings occurred on the State Board of Education, the new governor appointed people who were clearly not friends of public education.

Blunt's first appointment in March 2006 was Debi Demien, Wentzville. Though Demien had spent a short time as a public school teacher, that was in her rear view mirror for years by the time of her appointment to the state board.

Demien was director of marketing for Building God's Way, which built churches and Christian schools.

In 1999,, she wrote a book entitled Stealing America, the National Takeover of the Economy, Education and State Governments, which primarily criticized the school-to-work programs being used in public schools. She was an outspoken critic of Missouri's A+ program, which allows students involved in the program to receive free schooling at Missouri community colleges.

Demien headed a group called Restoring America's Way which fought against the separation of church and state. Restoring America's website at that time prominently featured an article on "the sin of sending kids to public schools."

On October 26, 2006, Blunt appointed Donayle Whitmore-Smith, 38, St. Louis to the board. Whitmore-Smith was head of the pro-voucher group Coalition for School Choice, a fact that Blunt failed to mention in his news release announcing her appointment.

Whitmore-Smith, the news release noted, was the founder of Ptah Academy of Arts and Science. That and her position with Coalition for School Choice were the only connections she had with education, but as impressive as her academy credential sounded, the reality was not quite as convincing.

An October 5, 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article described a day at the academy:

"The ribbons of incense and the children who meditate beneath them at the start of each school day leave no doubt that the Ptah Academy of Arts and Sciences isn't your typical school."

The academy is named after an ancient Egyptian god and "includes of elements of ancient spiritualism in its instruction," according to the Post-Dispatch article, which continues, "The school is not religious, Whitmore said, but it does encourage children to tap in to their 'spiritual energy.' 

"The article indicated the school featured "yoga, organic meals, tai chi and daily 'inner studies' or sessions of meditation" in its curriculum.

In a February 2005 article in the pro-voucher publication School Reform News, Ms. Whitmore-Smith said that she had attended private schools until high school and her experience at a public school was "hell." Ms. Whitmore-Smith said, "Academically, it just couldn't match what I'd been getting (in private schools)."

Nevertheless, Blunt pushed Whitmore-Smith for the position, claiming she was a supporter of public schools.

Governor Blunt's chief of staff Ed Martin told the Post-Dispatch that any thought that Ms. Whitmore-Smith would be anti-public education was ridiculous:

"If we thought that, she wouldn't be on the state board of education, because the governor is committed to public education," Martin said.

Before becoming Blunt's chief of staff, Martin worked for Betsy DeVos, as the attorney for All Children Matter.

Eventually, Whitmore-Smith was withdrawn from consideration, but that did not stop Blunt from attempting to stack the board with pro-voucher members.

On December 14, 2006, Blunt appointed Rev. Stan Archie, a voucher proponent and private school administrator,

If Blunt had opted to run for a second term and been elected, it was likely the entire board would have been filled with voucher supporters and it would have all been made possible by the financial support of Betsy DeVos.

Now the DeVos blueprint for destroying public education can be put into effect for the entire nation, with the complete and wholehearted support of Senator Roy Blunt.

Available Now!


Anonymous said...

Confucious say: Kick rock to find cockroach!

Anonymous said...

Not much in this article will make a difference to those who continue to support Blunt, Long or others in the republican party. They are out for the money grab of privatization no matter how much you show the American people they do not perform on equal status. Kansas is losing teachers at accelerated pace due to Brownnuts and Oklahoma is in dire straits to find anyone to teach. Notice in past article at the lack of Chemistry and Physics classes being taught in some Missouri schools. No chance of some of our kids getting a real education or the ability to understand what the technology means that is rapidly expanding our horizons. But, repeat But, we will have a enormous supply of chicken farmers, "right to work" factory workers that work for foreign countries at minimum wage to produce products their citizens need and can afford, while US citizens will be eating chicken heads and feet. This legacy of Blunt is long and storied with him and DeLay at the top of the manure heap.

Educator said...

OK Folks - NOW is the time to email your senators! Mine just got theirs; hope they are read before the confirmation hearings continue. Please don't give up! As adults, we are the children's voice. They deserve the best, not the least, public education.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if teacher's would Teach instead of preach Social Justice and Indoctrination we wouldn't be having this discussion, no way would I ever place my children in the public school system...Betsy will be confirmed Thank God! Paybacks a Bich Liberals...

Anonymous said...

Teacher's or teachers?

Education allows people to escape poverty. Teachers instruct content and help students see the potential in themselves. Please come join us so you can be educated about public schools.

Harvey Hutchinson said...

Betsy will be confirmed and do a great job!
All part of making America Great Again!!

Harvey Hutchinson 303-522-6622 voice&text 24/7

Anonymous said...

Watching her confirmation hearing, it is clearly evident that she does not know education and feel that it is only for the elite. Harvey- would you be specific on how she will do a great job if she does have the knowledge to do it. It takes at least 4 years and one of those semester interning full time to become a teacher. You have to support Trump to be Secretary of Education.

Trump is not perfect, sir.

Harvey Hutchinson said...

The whole department should dissolved, and education sent back to the states and local schools districts
Harvey Hutchinson 303-522/6622 voice&text 34:7

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that the department should be dissolved? Are you looking at the political side of education or do you want is best for the country and education? I would love to see what background that you have in education.

LDMark said...

Educator - do NOT bother emailing. Call. Call Blunt's district office # and the DC office. Be concise. Only tracking they do. Emails are not advised as they are not categorized and ignored.

Harvey Hutchinson said...

11th Amendment to the Constitution.
It's a State function; not Federal payoffs

I am a college, graduate
My father was an associate School Superintendent
Between ny own daughters, aunts, and cousins-/ probably 15-20 educators!!!

Harvey Hutchinson said...

No Common Core!!

Anonymous said...

In other words, Harvey stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

Really, how hard is it to answer the question: what specifically about the Department of Education do you object to?

Critics of federal agencies remind me of Rick Perry. They bloviate about how the departments should be abolished, but they are usually speaking out of ignorance. When they know more, they come to accept that the departments are performing vital functions. As Rick Perry said, "My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking."

Let me pose some final questions to those who advocate the abolition of the Department of Education (or any federal agency, for that matter). Why do you think the department was created in the first place? Was it in response to a problem that other areas or levels of government could not adequately deal with? (Or were the people who created the agency/department complete idiots?) Have those problems been completely fixed?

Anonymous said...

If it walks like a duck do you hear a lot of quacking?

Anonymous said...

How does one get information on these donations? I've checked on and didn't see it there, and I saw an article that said DeVos had only given Blunt $2700. I would like o use this information when I contact Blunt about the DeVos nomination and want to verify it myself. Thanks!

Randy said...

Go to the Federal Election Commission website, On the left hand side, click where it says "Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal." Go to "Searchable Systems." When you get to that page, click on "Individual Contribution Search." Type DeVos in the last name. After that, you will get every contribution made by anyone named DeVos all through the years. My research determined that all of the ones who contributed to Roy Blunt were members of Betsy DeVos' family. As far as the contributions that helped Matt Blunt become governor, they can be found by going to this link- It shows that the money was used to oppose Claire McCaskill's campaign for governor (and help Matt Blunt).

rita said...

Perhaps if you had attended public schools, you know how to spell "bitch."
Also ...teachers, not teacher's
Also...teach, not Teach reason to capitalize social injustice or indoctrination
Also...period belongs after discussion
Also...period after confirmed
You're welcome.
A public school teacher

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rita. My sentiments exactly. It's most unfortunate that those I've seen support Betsy DeVos were consistently unable to communicate anything but the headlines from self-proclaimed right-wing media organizations--and certainly not in proper English. DeVos supporters: it continues to perpetuate that you are poorly educated, are unwilling to do any homework, but instead follow blindly. While that is so much easier, I hope you agree that our fellow Americans, and our children in the education system, deserve so much more from the grown-ups who are responsible their education and social development.
-graduate of public high school and University of Missouri-Columbia Journalism School

Gamer GurlTV // LpsEva said...

Unfortunately your email won't change anything. Here is his response to mine:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.

The Congressional responsibility of advice and consent on executive nominations is a duty I take very seriously. As Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and a former public school teacher, I appreciate your insight on this important issue. I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind when considering the executive nomination of Betsy DeVos.

Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to continuing our conversation on Facebook and Twitter about the important issues facing Missouri and the country. I also encourage you to visit my website to learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my e-newsletter.

Sincere regards,

Roy Blunt
United States Senator

daniel lamping said...

Do you mean 10th amendment, Harvey? Also, Common Core is a state level initiative.

itshappenstance said...

I would like to reply, "best. response. ever."
But now that I know you are a school teacher my only option is:

Dear Rita,
Thank you for sharing this exquisitely poignant response.

Anonymous said...

Exactly the automated response that I received.

Anonymous said...

How about this..since the inception of the DOE, we have dropped consistently in test scores especially in the areas of math and science.

Anonymous said...

Same here, too.

Anonymous said...

It's clear you've never spent a moment in the classroom. None of this fighting has to do with "preaching" or "teaching indoctrination". In fact, that's illegal at the public school level. Passion, however, is not. But, that's ok, you'll soon find your kids being indoctrinated at the private school you can't afford. But, you'll wave your voucher like a flag, proud, for the moment, while your kids are miserable, discovering they are treated differently by these kids, while kids with special needs,all around the country, are denied entry to these schools, refusing to seek the resources necessary to teach them, because, Heaven-forbid they tarnish their reputation of turning out Doctors and Lawyers. Then, where will this public servants work? You workers, school psychologists, social advocates...teachers?!? Let's be real...I've never met a public educator who does it for the money or the platform. It's for the kids. Good luck with your indoctrination rant. All you're doing is advertising how poorly informed you are. Good day.

Kirk Welch said...

"Maybe if teacher's would Teach instead of preach Social Justice and Indoctrination we wouldn't be having this discussion".

First I think your referring to Civics when you speak of Social Justice and 2nd Please tell me what's wrong with social justice? Obviously you've never attended a public school if you think teaching some form of social justice or civics is indoctrination. It sounds to me more like you just don't want to be exposed to anything outside your very small world view, the idea that things might not be all you've been taught inside your insular echo chamber are too horrifying for you to contemplate like say, equality, the possibility that racism actually does exist even though I'm sure your not racist, at least not in your mind. Maybe you think Transgenders, homosexuals, Lesbians etc. would never attend a private school, but what happens when all schools are privatized?
Frankly, if they would leave public tax dollars alone and fund public schools as they should be funded, I'd be fine with you sending little Gabriel or Rebekah to whatever private school you so desire as long as your paying for that "special education" out of your own pocket.
I'd never consider sending my kids to the parochial indoctrination centers you refer to as private schools. I would never allow my children to be subject to having their chops busted for thinking outside the box and developing their own world view regardless of what some person who couldn't make it through college to obtain a teaching degree was attempting to force on them.
I attended both public and private schools growing up. It was my choice. I hated private school as the curriculum revolved around religion. Time I could have been spending learning to read and write, better understand mathematics and science was spent reading scripture which has not helped me one bit in life. It hasn't helped me find and keep a job, it hasn't helped me pay my bills or put food on the table and it never helped me socially in any way I can see. It just comes down to being a decent person and treating others with the same respect and dignity you yourself wish to be treated. You know, the golden rule, what Jesus taught and what far too many self proclaimed Christians have turned their back on in favor of an OT God, who's teachings they love to cherry pick as it suits their needs.
You don't like the idea of schools teaching what you refer to as social justice but I'm sure you like living in a society where Christians aren't fed to lions for the sport of it. No doubt you are another who feels persecuted in your faith because not everyone believes as you do and your "Paybacks a bich Liberals" remark is stark example of just how unchristian you really are.
I feel pity for you more than anything. Your angry that there are so many who don't bend a knee to your God, but it has never dawned on you that forcing your ideology on others is a sure way to turn them against the church. People in general and especially American's don't like being dictated to. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with Inalienable Rights thing mentioned in what we refer to as the Constitution.
I'll leave you with this warning, the more you and those like you attempt to impose your ideology on the masses through legislation the harder the masses will resist, and as you pointed out, "paybacks a bich"!