It was no surprise Donald Trump singled out Governor Tom Wolf and his veto of a tax handout to corporations by way of privatization schemes for Pennsylvania public schools. The bill in reference was a pet project of the Commonwealth Foundation and Speaker Mike Turzai, who have deep ties to Betsy DeVos. 

The Commonwealth Foundation and Trump have been telegraphing it throughout the year after their efforts have largely failed in Pennsylvania. Before Trump’s speech, the billionaire-funded front group tweeted that there was something to watch for in the State of The Union. They have explicitly made their ties to DeVos and Trump known over the last few months. 

DeVos has been a frequent visitor to Pennsylvania in the last year. Most notably, one of her latest appearances in Harrisburg led to Speaker Turzai calling public school teachers “special interest people” after he was offended by their homemade sign that read “I Love Public Schools.” She has appeared often with Commonwealth Foundation and House Republican staffers. 

Photo of Nathan Benefield, Betsy DeVos, and Republican Staffers.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos pictured with Mike Turzai, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Nathan Benefield, and House Republican staffers. 

The Commonwealth Foundation is bombarding mailboxes of Harrisburg residents attacking legislators like State Representative Patty Kim for voting against a similar Commonwealth Foundation privatization scheme that failed. Their coziness with DeVos and the Trump administration is no surprise; individuals like former CEO Matt Brouillette have used Trump’s racist playbook. Earlier this year, Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Jennifer Stefano praised Trump in an editorial framing his supporters as “forgotten men.”

Commonwealth Foundation mailer attacking Rep. Patty Kim.
Commonwealth Foundation mailer attacking Rep. Patty Kim.

The reason the Commonwealth Foundation is rallying around DeVos, Trump and their call for corporate tax credits at the expense of public education is simple. They are literally profiting off the backs of public school children through their own shady Commonwealth Kids LLC scheme. They can wrap their advocacy in pictures of kids all they want, but it doesn’t change the hundreds of thousands in direct profit they could reap from this DeVos sanctioned legislation.