Betsy DeVos, Paul Vallas and Awake Illinois. Defunding public schools.
Betsy funded a group that did a FOIA on me as a teacher and union president. Now she's funding Vallas' run for Chicago mayor.
Betsy DeVos and I go back a long way.
In 2010 a group she funded a FOIA request for all my work emails and my personnel file. I was a teacher then and president of my teacher union local in Park Ridge, Illinois.
This was years before Donald Trump picked her to be the Secretary of Education.
Betsy and the DeVos family have so much money that they have created and fund a boat load of front groups.
The group that filed a successful FOIA on me was called the Education Action Group.
EAG was searching for evidence that I had used my district’s email for political purposes, which would have been illegal.
They demanded I be fired.
Of course, I had done nothing illegal and there were no grounds to fire me.
The probably knew that. They were more interested in intimidation.
I wasn’t intimidated.
Another one of the groups funded by Betsy and the DeVos family has one of those fascist-sounding names, Awake Illinois.
Awake Illinois is one of our state’s most active advocates for vouchers, charter schools and against what they call “government schools.” Government schools are known as public schools by most people.
In addition to being pro-privatization, Awake Illinois is known for being trans-phobic and LGBTQ-phobic.
They are, naturally, supporters of Paul Vallas for mayor.
The other day Illinois Families for Public Schools broke the story that Betsy DeVos was a heavy contributor to the Vallas campaign.
Vallas is also tight with Awake Illinois.
In July, 2022 the Chicago Reader reported:
Last month, former Chicago Public Schools CEO and second-time mayoral candidate Paul Vallas spoke at a fundraiser for Awake Illinois, a group that has been criticized for its transphobic and homophobic rhetoric.
The group hosted a fundraiser in Naperville about school choice in June, and Vallas was a featured panelist. In addition to promoting school choice, the nonprofit has opposed COVID safety protocols in schools, and the teaching of what it calls “critical race theory.” Last month, the group called Governor J.B. Pritzker a “groomer,” a term increasingly used as an anti-LGBTQ+ slur by the far right, after he signed a sex-ed bill.
In July, Awake Illinois and other right-wing groups publicly maligned UpRising Bakery and Cafe in suburban Lake of the Hills for planning a family-friendly drag show. The bakery was subsequently vandalized, and the bakery’s owners canceled the show as a result. Joseph Collins, a 24-year-old from Alsip, was later charged with a felony hate crime and criminal damage to property.
At Awake Illinois’s June fundraiser, Vallas sat on a panel alongside former Indiana school administrator Tony Kinnett and Waukegan teacher Frank McCormick, vocal critics of curriculum that includes critical race theory. Other panelists included Nicole Neily, the president of a campus free speech organization, and Pastor Randy Blan, who challenged the state’s mask mandate as headmaster of a private Christian school in northern Illinois. Corey DeAngelis, a national leader for school choice, gave the keynote speech.
After the Illinois Families for Public Schools’ story of the Vallas/DeVos connection made the mainstream media yesterday, Vallas denied it.
But today Illinois Families for Public Schools issued the following press release:
CHICAGO — Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is falsely denying his connections to former President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and an Illinois Super PAC that DeVos funds.
DeVos funds and controls the Illinois Federation for Children PAC which made a $59,000 independent expenditure in support of Vallas’ campaign last week. On the same day, DeVos’ American Federation for Children Action Fund, a national 527 PAC funded primarily by DeVos and her husband, made a $65,000 contribution to the Illinois Federation for Children PAC.
Yesterday evening at the Sun-Times-WBEZ mayoral debate, Vallas denied having contact with DeVos, stating “I’ve never had any conversations or contact with Betsy DeVos. And our campaign has not received any money from her.”
The Vallas campaign said on Wednesday evening that “our campaign has not been in contact with this organization [Illinois Federation for Children PAC].”
In reality, Vallas and DeVos served together as hosts at an Urban League of Chicago event on September, 9 2021 in honor of the superintendent of schools of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.
Moreover, the chair of the Illinois Federation for Children PAC Nathan Hoffman has been regularly attending Vallas campaign events in the last month, including Vallas’ February 28th election night party:
Hoffman was a registered contract lobbyist in Springfield for the DeVos-founded and funded 501c4 American Federation for Children until January 2023.
On June 18, 2022, Vallas appeared on a panel hosted by extremist anti-LGBTQ+ group Awake Illinois with keynote speaker Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at DeVos-founded and funded American Federation for Children.
Paul Vallas’ decades-long history of privatizing multiple school districts in the US and extensive support for transferring public funds to private schools are tightly aligned with DeVos’ ideological opposition to the existence of publicly-run, publicly-funded schools.
DeAngelis in the right-wing publication Reason:
"I'm pretty skeptical of the government deciding what should be taught in any type of school," says Corey DeAngelis, national director of research for the American Federation for Children and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website). He says public school parents should also have the right to choose the most fitting academic setting for their kids. The solution is to "fund students, not systems," giving families the choice to spend education dollars on the schooling of their choosing instead of the one-size-fits-all approach offered by traditional public schools.
"[CRT] bills are just a form of whack-a-mole, where your CRT battles of today were the common core battles of yesterday, and it'll be something else going forward because the reality is parents disagree about what kind of education they want their kids to have…And the better solution is the bottom-up accountability in allowing families to vote with their feet," says DeAngelis.
This has become such a hot-button issue because the pandemic gave parents direct exposure to exactly what their children were and weren't being taught.
"Parents are awake now that they have seen the curriculum," says Tina Descovich, a former Brevard County, Florida, school board member and co-founder of Moms for Liberty. "They now understand school district policies, which they had never looked at before. They are understanding the structure, who holds authority, and what types of authority, within the education system. I think that's vital, and it's something that's been lacking for a long time.
Paul Vallas uses the exact same language of “fund students, not systems” as DeAngelis.
It’s code for defunding Chicago’s and the nation’s public schools.
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