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State party chairwoman resigns on Republican Governor

Public row over education reform

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LANSING, Michigan - Republican Governor Engler and his state party chairwoman Betsy DeVos have parted ways over philosophical differences regarding public education in Michigan. Engler remained squarely opposed to a voucher system in low-scoring school districts while DeVos and her husband Dick of multi-level marketer Amway Corp. campaigned for a signature drive to put the voucher proposition on the ballot later this later. Some Republicans fear that the school voucher controversy will weaken their party at the polls although party leadership initially supported the plan.

The rift was laid bare when DeVos jolted party officials by suddenly quitting the post she has held since 1996. DeVos hinted at a personal months-long clash with the Governor who is now in his third term.

DeVos criticized Engler for wanting a follower in the party chair, instead of a leader. DeVos who was raised a daughter of Holland, Michigan industrialist Edward Prince and his wife Elsa bills herself as a fighter for the grassroots.

The campaign for the school vouchers has gathered over 300,000 signatures, under Michigan law enough to get it on the ballot although Engler has declared a number of times the measure has ‘no hope’ of passing. The DeVos and Prince families paid about one third of the $1.26 million 1999 budget for the Kids First! Yes! campaign and have the support of the Roman Catholic Archiocese of Detroit. The proposal would allow parents in school districts with marginal results in education to opt out of the public system in favour of independent schools. Dick DeVos is leading the voucher drive.

Among those mentioned as possible successor to the Republican state party chair is Michigan's Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus, also of Dutch ancestry.