More (Charter) School Politics

Justin Swan calls out the Wall Street Journal’s editorial about the feckless Democrats and their lockstep opposition and hysterical hollering to Betsy DeVos. Is it a case of biting the hand that feeds you? Perhaps. But turn to Dan Henninger to get the better  sense of the politics of the DeVos nomination. This is about the nature of the urban (and largely minority) school districts, where the teachers play such an important role. In Michigan, it’s more than that, too.

Ever since the days of John Engler there’s been this blood feud between the MEA and the GOP — if anything it’s been a liability to our state, promoting overreaction on both sides. BDV has been part of that in many ways, particularly in her role as an activist, a very active activist. There are other dimensions, too. Her engagement with GRPS is not something to pass by, and that accounts for much of the relative silence of leadership. It’s less bought silence than known collaboration.

 The DeVos Apocalypse

Half a loaf

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 There’s no question that GRPS Superintendent Teresa Wetherall Neal has earned the respect of parents and teachers. So the news from WOOD-TV that DeVos money would fund an all expense-paid trip to support Betsy DeVos came as a shock. Perhaps even asa betrayal. But really, it was no surprise.
The involvement of DeVos money and GRPS is rather well established, including providing a management coach to help her master the first days of her job. If anything, the very personal, connectional qualities that we like in Superintendent Neal are the same that allow her to consider supporting some one who has supported her schools. This same personal connection is also what drives so much pain among teachers and parents — it seems to be something of a betrayal, the personal transfigured to the political. As a practical matter, the success of GRPS depends on its ability to negotiate with the various Republican power brokers, elected or not. And of these, none come bigger than DeVos herself.
All this put Neal in a no-win situation. The cancelled trip gives a gracious way out while maintaining the personal connections of loyalty. And oddly, that half loaf approach is the one that keeps the district growing. I’ll settle for that.