A native of Holland, Ms. DeVos reflected on her tenure as Education Secretary.
“I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that my major focus as secretary was to light a prairie fire across America for education freedom: for school choice. For the should-be simple idea that education is about students, not systems, and that accordingly, education funding should be tied to students, not systems or buildings. That the sole goal of public education should be to educate the public,” Ms. DeVos said.She likened her time spent in Washington to going on “a trip to the dentist.”
“It’s important, it’s useful, it makes a difference, but you’re quite happy once it’s over and you’re gone,” Ms. DeVos remarked.
However, she was glad to have been able to work with Mr. Moolenaar during her time in Washington, and expressed gratitude that he co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Education, Innovation, and Opportunity.
“John was also a voice of reason in what was annually an otherwise totally unreasonable and unpleasant experience: […] the yearly budget hearing. I’m still astonished and appalled by the way politicians in the swamp spend their money. They spend it as if there’s no tomorrow, and with the way they’re spending right now, there may well be no tomorrow. So it should make us appreciate all the more that Congressman Moolenaar is there to help fight back against the insanity,” Ms. DeVos said.
The former education secretary took shots at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the shutdown of schools and the mask mandate.
“Her mind boggling actions during COVID were the first and only thing that ever made me prefer to spend the weekend in D.C. instead of coming home. And you should know it takes a lot to make the mayor of D.C. look rational in measure,” Ms. DeVos said.
She touted education reform and school choice as her most important issues, as well as issues the Republican Party should focus on moving forward.
“Parents in every corner of this country have been awakened to the realities of education today. If a parent group has risen up in Ann Arbor to fight back against COVID lockdowns, then you know with certainty that liberals have gone too far,” Ms. DeVos said.
Ms. DeVos argued that the level of learning loss and negative developmental impact in children “isn’t pretty,” although this has not been accurately measured.
“We won’t be fooled and we won’t forget. We can’t forget, and we cannot let the people of Michigan forget what Gov. Whitmer did to them – to our kids,” Ms. DeVos said. “The implications on individual students and on our long term economy cannot be overstated.”
Ms. DeVos urged the Whitmer administration to follow suit with states like Fla., Ky., W.Va., Okla., and Iowa which have passed education reform bills in 2021.
“Education freedom is on the march across America right now,” Ms. DeVos said. “Our neighbors in Indiana and Illinois have expanded their programs this year, and Ohio is looking to do the same. Lansing must take action before Michigan’s kids are left further and further behind.”
In her remarks, Ms. DeVos also expressed concern that personalities are being placed ahead of principles within the Republican Party, and that politics are not focused enough on policies.
“Personalities are important to point us to our principles,” Mrs. DeVos said. “But only when we keep them in the inverse order: principles as championed by personalities. Ours is not a movement dependent on any one person. Instead, it’s rooted in our foundational, constitutional principles, and they are promised to every person in this great land.”
Earlier in the breakfast, Messrs. Camp and Schuette presented the Riecker Award to Eric Friedman, in recognition of his service to the Midland G.O.P. The award is named after Ranny Riecker, who served as vice chair of the Midland Republican Party and the Michigan Republican National Committee.
Mr. Friedman worked for Mr. Camp as district director from 2001 to 2011, while Mr.Camp was in office representing the 4th district.
Michael Piwowarski covers education, including higher ed and Midland Public Schools, for the City Paper.