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Rounds Dismisses Constituents’ Opposition to DeVos, Assures Us She Won’t Do Vouchers in SD

Does no one in the Republican Party respect the will of the voters?

Senator Mike Rounds admits that a majority of South Dakotans who contacted him about the President’s Education nominee did not want Betsy DeVos confirmed. But silly voters—what do they know?

Most of the negative input was concentrated around the fact that many people had been told by special interest groups that DeVos favors funding public education through vouchers, he said in a conference call with reporters [Roger Larsen, “Rounds: More South Dakotans Opposed Than in Support of DeVos Confirmation,” Huron Plainsman, 2017.02.13]. 

Um, Senator Rounds? If a special interest group tells us the sky is blue, the sky is still blue. And we didn’t need special interest groups to tell us that DeVos supports vouchers; DeVos said at her confirmation hearing that she supports vouchers:

The committee’s chairman, Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and former education secretary himself, asked DeVos whether she would try to push school vouchers onto states even though the federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, does not include or allow it.

“No,” she answered. “I would hope I could convince you all of the merit of that in maybe some future legislation, but certainly not any kind of mandate from within the department” [Cory Turner, “School Vouchers, Oligarchy and Grizzlies: Highlights from the DeVos Hearing,” NPR, 2017.01.18].

Senator Rounds further poo-poos South Dakotans’ concerns by saying Betsy DeVos can’t impose vouchers or her other bad policies here:

During Catholic Schools Week, Senator Rounds visited St. Joseph's Elementary in Pierre, where he assures us there won't be vouchers.
During Catholic Schools Week, Senator Rounds visited St. Joseph’s Elementary in Pierre, where he assures us there won’t be vouchers. [@Senator Rounds, 2017.01.30]
The good news for South Dakota is the state doesn’t have a voucher program so the issue is moot, Rounds said.

…“It’s a voucher system that does not exist in South Dakota,” he said.

The state also does not have charter schools, and Rounds said he is trying to get the message out that fears that people have about the new secretary are not ones they should have.

…Rounds also said there are no issues with DeVos and special education that would impact South Dakota [Larsen, 2017.02.13].

Get back in your bunker, South Dakota—if policies don’t directly hurt South Dakotans specifically, then South Dakotans have no business worrying about the harm those policies might do to the rest of America. So goes what passes for logic in Senator Rounds’s office.

Senator Rounds misses the possibility that South Dakotans may want to apply their commitment to public education to all American kids:

The fact is, in a rural state like South Dakota, two public schools in a community cannot be supported.

“You have to make your public schools better rather than having multiple schools,” he said [Larsen, 2017.02.13].

Make your public schools better rather than having multiple schoolsyou said it, Mike! Making public schools better isn’t just rural pragmatism; it’s the proper philosophy and duty of every public official, especially the United States Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos has devoted her political career to diverting money from public schools to subsidize the private/charter school industry—in other words, the opposite of the duty of a Secretary of Education. Hence, our opposition… which you ignored on specious grounds.


  1. Joe Nelson 2017-02-13 21:02

    As a homeschooler, I can’t wait to get me some of that DeVos money.

  2. Super Sweet 2017-02-13 22:13

    South Dakota is not just poorly represented in Washington, D.C., it isn’t represented at all.

  3. Super Sweet 2017-02-13 22:16

    It was homeschoolers that propelled MM Rounds election to the state legislature in the first place, so you have a hero there, Joe.

  4. Paul harens 2017-02-13 22:30

    Interesting. I sent him an e-mail and told him it would be ethically and morally wrong for him to vote for her because of his acceptance of the funds donated by her family to him. I told him he had two choice: vote no or abstain. If he voted for her we would know what it costs to buy his vote. Same for Senator Thune, who answered me. Rounds did not answer me.

  5. CraigSk 2017-02-13 22:47

    Paul, if I may, how did Thune respond to that? Just curious. It seems he did not take your sound advise.

  6. CLCJM 2017-02-13 22:53

    And we’re supposed to trust Rounds word for it!?? A bill has already been introduced that repeals most of the federal education laws going back to the 1960’s! And does away with the Department of Education!

    Rounds expects us to trust him, but he never told us what happened to all the EB5 and Gearup money! I wouldn’t trust him with pocket change!

  7. Mike Marshall 2017-02-14 00:50

    Drain the swamp.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-14 06:52

    Joe, send DeVos a letter and ask her for some money. She can send you all the money she wants from her own purse, but not from the public till.

    But remember, Joe, Senator Rounds said DeVos’s vouchers won’t happen here in South Dakota, so you’ll have to go to some other state (and I greet your moving to another state with as much enthusiasm as I greet vouchers).

  9. Moses6 2017-02-14 07:02

    Trusting Rounds would be like telling telling you we have a couple. Acres of slew land that gets 600 bushels an acre of corn.

  10. mike from iowa 2017-02-14 08:38

    Where is the South Dakota School of Dumbing Down Wingnut Pols located? These people can’t be getting this brand of stoopid from public education.

    I’d love to slap Rounds up alongside his Drumpfsucker and have him recite DeVos sterling qualifications for Sec of Education. And no, having given billions of bucks to right wing lost causes is not a qualification.

  11. Kristi 2017-02-14 08:56

    Personally I liked how Rounds ignored concerns about DeVos’s responses on questions about IDEA by essentially saying “she’ll put things back in the hands of local schools” (or something very similar according to the email I got in response to my contacts that I rolled my eyes at and then deleted). After all, it’s not like there’s a Supreme Court case that was just heard last month arguing that local school districts aren’t providing the level of education disabled students should be receiving ( and that language of quality/standards is provided by the DoE so…

  12. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-14 12:04

    With any luck, Betsy DeVoes appointment will last as long as National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

  13. mike from iowa 2017-02-14 12:46

    She boosted her street cred with wingnuts by finally getting into a public school in DC although many people blocked her entrance.

  14. Donald Pay 2017-02-14 12:50

    DeVos will not be happy until she has destroyed public education. It’s been her 25-year quest in both Michigan and Wisconsin, where she has bought enough of the Republican Party to get most of her agenda passed. Both states’ public schools have undergone an immense amount of defunding, while the wealthy elites get tax subsidies to send their children to private schools. That’s what she intends to bring forward for every state, including South Dakota. She actually wants to ruin rural public schools so her business associates can siphon tax dollars into their private schools. That’s what’s happening in Wisconsin.

  15. Jenny 2017-02-14 13:47

    In that picture Rounds kind of looks like Moe from the Three Stooges. I didn’t know he had a bald spot. The ol’ boy looks like he’s put on some weight also.

    I’m leaning towards believing that perhaps vouchers might not necessarily be a bad thing. MN has spent an extra several hundred million dollars on public education under Dayton and it has barely moved the achievement gap. So why I do think De Vos is a poor choice, I think vouchers given to children in poor neighborhoods to go to a better school outside their neighborhood would be a positive thing.

  16. Jenny 2017-02-14 13:50

    Is it true that SD doesn’t have Charter schools? MN has had them for years and they’re extremely popular, there is a lottery to get into them.

  17. Kristi 2017-02-14 14:30

    Vouchers themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s the implementation of voucher programs that can be questionable. A couple of issues that voucher programs run into (among others!):

    (a) Should public tax dollars go to voucher programs that allow parents to pick private schools (instead of the still-murky but less questionable public charters)? Keep in mind this funding question when you realize most of the prior research looking at charter vs. public school performance is actually about the same. The Center for Education Policy actually has a good report looking at the efficacy of voucher programs (; the report is a *little* dated (from 2011) but the research and recommendations are still valid. Basically they conclude “we don’t have enough data” as much of the research done previously was funded with pro-voucher slants. Further, what data we do have shows little statistically significant difference between students in voucher programs and students not in voucher programs.

    (b) To what standard are these schools held? John Oliver actually put together a well-researched “sadly funny” segment on Last Week Tonight back in August about charter schools and the lack of accountability ( This is one of the issues I personally have with DeVos; I’m not opposed to the creation of public charters. I *am* opposed to her history of supporting legislation that reduces accountability for charter and private schools which presumably continue as she takes over as the DoE head (and continue into public schools).

    (c) How are vouchers distributed? If the program is state-wide (for example, Indiana has a state-wide program), which students are considered “eligible”? What happens to the funds in the program in rural areas where there really isn’t a “choice” available? What about transportation? A lot of voucher programs in cities, for example, don’t include any acknowledgement that students still need to get to school *somehow* and transportation can often be an issue that isn’t covered in those funds.

    (d) Back to the accountability issue, which schools are eligible for vouchers? When looking at Indiana, it was religious schools (again with no regulation) that saw the biggest boost in enrollment, dollars, and voucher-use. Mother Jones has a good piece about the results and the lack of accountability here: This is something we’re likely to see more of, given DeVos’s much-reported statements about Christian education and “advancing God’s kingdom” (I suspect she supports SB 55 and the other bills like it that have cropped up in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas).

    TLDR: vouchers aren’t really the problem, it’s how we use the vouchers and who stands most to benefit from them that cause most of the problems.

  18. Charlene Lund 2017-02-14 14:42

    Charter schools can pick and choose their students – no minorities, no kids with disabilities, – discrimination in its most ugly form. Public schools are the foundation of our society and must be well funded and not undermined.

  19. Joe Nelson 2017-02-14 15:29

    Sweet, delicious DeVos money for us homeschoolers:

    Choices in Education Act of 2017

    This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

    The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

    To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

    No Hungry Kids Act

    The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)

    If this passes, I think we will see the GOP in SD pass the requisite laws to receive the block grants.

  20. mike from iowa 2017-02-14 15:39

    I keep thinking something in the constitution sez no public monies for any schools other than public schools. This is really not hard to understand, is it?

  21. Jenny 2017-02-14 15:43

    That is not true with Charter schools in MN, Charlene. I have heard nothing but good about Charter schools here.

  22. Jenny 2017-02-14 15:45

    As long as the vouchers go to any Public or Charter school I would support, NOT private schools.

  23. Joe Nelson 2017-02-14 15:59

    mike from iowa,

    They will fix it so it is allowed. Private school kids get to ride public school buses and use public school facilities, and home school kids can get public school books as well as participate in extracurricular activities. Voucher systems are in place in other states, and they have not been eliminated due to unconstitutionality. But maybe it is because the right type of case has not gone before the Supreme Court yet. I am not in the weeds enough to know what lawsuits fail to trickle up to the SC.

    On the plus side, for all the people who HATE DeVos, the law would limit her and prevent her from imposing requirements on schools.
    “The Secretary shall not impose any further requirements on States with respect to elementary and secondary education beyond the requirements of this title.”

  24. Joe Nelson 2017-02-14 16:17

    In case you all think that every home schooler is jumping for joy, the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) opposes H.R. 610, and even gives a boiler plate message to send to Congresspersons:

    As a homeschooling parent, I oppose H.R. 610. I do not want to receive federal vouchers. Government money will ultimately lead to government control and regulation, which will stifle the success of homeschooling. I am grateful for your past support of homeschool freedom, and urge that you protect the future of homeschooling by rewriting H.R. 610 to ensure that homeschools, and homeschools defined by state laws as private schools, do not receive federal money.

    Their ultimate statement on H.R. 610

    HSLDA opposes H.R. 610 for reasons of prudence and principle.

    Once homeschools become publicly funded by the federal government, more scrutiny and more control are likely to follow. After all, homeschooling families will be spending government money, and the Congress has a responsibility to guard the public fisc.

    On principle, homeschooling has succeeded as a movement in part by being different. Unlike typical constituencies asking for our piece of the public-money pie, we have simply asked the federal government to leave us alone. This has fostered one of the most dynamic social movements of our lifetime.

    The spirit of self-government at the heart of private homeschooling has led to a vibrant social network of small groups and statewide groups who depend on each other—not on the government. The homeschool movement has been a better idea because we built it ourselves.

    Routinely taking federal tax dollars will enervate the movement, lead to more squabbles between families and the state, and will result in more scrutiny, oversight, and control.

    Thank you for standing with us for liberty as together, we fight to keep homeschooling free.

  25. mike from iowa 2017-02-14 16:39

    Wingnuts have been foaming at the mouth for a chance to slap Michelle Obama’s signature school lunch health initiative.

  26. bearcreekbat 2017-02-14 17:00

    Anything less then seeking adequate funding to continually improve the quality of our public schools ought to be cause for removal from office. But perhaps there is a place for some type of “voucher” program.

    Perhaps a “voucher” might be designed to function for pre-college students in a manner similar to how a Pell grant works for college students? Aren’t Pell grants available to help defer the cost of a private college as well as a public college? In the same manner, “vouchers” could be made available for families that choose public schools or private schools.

    The bill Joe posted could be improved by:

    including parents who choose public schools;

    making a family’s income or resources a limiting factor;

    setting a dollar limit on each “voucher” distributed;

    determining what expenses the voucher can be used to pay;

    identifying the documentation required to avoid waste, fraud and abuse; and

    by offering regular drug testing for all parents and children and as an incentive double the amount of the voucher for those who accept.

    With a few tweaks, this could turn into a pretty good idea after all.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-14 17:02

    That’s good to hear, Joe. HSLDA makes a key point. They don’t want the scrutiny and control that necessarily accompanies public funding. Thus, they don’t deserve public funding. I’m fine with that. Set up all the alternatives to public education you want, but don’t do it on the public dime.

  28. Joe Nelson 2017-02-14 17:15


    I think like the Nixon block grants, it will be up to the states to determine how to divvy up money, what expenses count, et cetera. So, you will have to put your trust into the SD legislature to write good bills/programs to administrate this. Keep you eyes peeled for what teh SD GOP produces in the next few weeks.

    It might turn into an issue, that even if this passes and a home school family wants to opt out and not take money, they still may be required to register with the state. This will make a lot of home schoolers in states that don’t require registration or letters of intent angry. They don’t want any government interference.

    Whatever happens, it will certainly make things interesting and exciting! I will certainly have lots of questions, such as “If I take my children on a field trip to Iceland, how much of that and what of that will be reimbursable?”

  29. Super Sweet 2017-02-14 18:10

    Jenny: I was a school supt in Minnesota and did not witness the popularity of charter schools there. They drained money from the regular public schools and have a poor record of closing the achievement gap and living up to their other promises, for the most part.

  30. Jenny 2017-02-14 19:04

    he town I’m in a lot of parents want to send their kids to charter schools.
    Maybe they’re less popular with teachers, principals and superintendents. Charter schools score higher on tests in my town also.

  31. Jenny 2017-02-14 19:10

    Charter schools are popular b/c they have an emphasis towards such things as foreign language (spanish probably being the most popular) and the sciences. How can that be a bad thing? They don’t score that much higher in standard tests but currently in my town they are popular.

  32. CraigSk 2017-02-14 22:47

    Jenny, it is not a bad thing. Education, I mean. You can get good education in your public schools if you fund them better and elect School Boards members that support those ideas like forgien language and sciences. One will never improve public education by taking its money and giving it to charter schools. Thank you for correcting your first comment on test scores. Charter schools do not really do better than public schools in standardized tests. The comparison is really apples and oranges anyway. I do not think any parent wants to send their child to charter schools. They just want a good education for their children. Support your public schools by electing educated and devoted school board members.

  33. O 2017-02-15 08:35

    To Jenny’s point, when parents make a choice of schools for their children, the very nature of making that choice creates an attitude of approval for that school (who believes they make bad/wrong choices?). SD has open enrollment, but parents do not have the mindset that they have made a choice to send their child to the school they have chosen. Parent satisfaction is a function of the psychology of choice as much as, if not more than, the actual educational outcomes.

    The main issue with charters or vouchers is the core of funding public education. This is also something that the discussion has misrepresented. I hear more and more that people say they pay taxes to send their kids to school. NO YOU DO NOT. We all pay taxes to create a free public school, and educational opportunity for ALL kids, for our community. Not having kids in public schools does not mean that you do not have an obligation to your community. That is like saying that I do not drive on certain roads, so I do not want to pay taxes to support those roads; or I do not grow corn, so I do not want to pay taxes that support corn farming; or I am not old, so I do not want to support medicare . . . Let’s keep our eye on the ball: public schools need to be supported by public funds as a public good. Any policy that diverts public funds from public education deserves “extreme vetting” and bigly scrutiny.

  34. the lowly independent 2017-02-15 22:28

    yeah, typical rounds move here, how did this guy get elected as a US Senator is beyond me… his track record is astonishing… a big government republican, the worst of the worst. I would highly doubt he actually wants the DoED gone, at the end of the day all this guy wants is the government and his cronies to hold as much of the tax payers money as possible. and in some cases stealing it!

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