Businessman, Voucher Backer Vies to Be Next Mich. Governor

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In a campaign that’s almost entirely about the Michigan economy, wealthy businessman and school choice supporter Dick DeVos Jr. is giving Democratic Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm a tough challenge.

If Mr. DeVos wins—and polls show the race is close—the school choice movement will have one of its most generous allies in office.

The Republican is a strong supporter of vouchers and other school choice initiatives who helped finance the campaign in 2000 to change the Michigan Constitution to allow publicly funded tuition vouchers that could be used at religious schools. That effort failed, but he used it as a steppingstone to help launch a political action committee called All Children Matter, which seeks to get school-choice-friendly candidates into state office nationwide.

Mr. DeVos made his fortune, which is helping fund his gubernatorial campaign, by working his way up the ladder of Amway Corp., which was co-founded by his father, Richard DeVos.

Though vouchers aren’t a part of his education platform in the governor’s race, Mr. DeVos has other proposals, including merit pay for teachers. He also supports the “65 percent solution,” a policy idea that would require at least that percentage of school funding to go to the classroom, not to administration. ("Group’s ‘65 Percent Solution’ Gains Traction, GOP Friends," Oct. 12, 2005.)

Though his campaign wouldn’t provide more details about his proposals, his education platform also calls for creating alternative-certification programs to allow math and science professionals a fast track to jobs in teaching.

PHOTO: Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos Jr., center, stands with his family at the state Republican convention Aug. 26 in Novi, Mich. From left are son Rick, wife Betsy, son Ryan, and daughter Elissa. Mr. DeVos stepped down as chairman of All Children Matter to run for governor.
—Paul Sancya/AP

Vol. 26, Issue 05, Page 10

Published in Print: September 27, 2006, as Businessman, Voucher Backer Vies to Be Next Mich. Governor
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