When President Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to be the country’s Secretary of Education, many doubted her lack of political experience. However, even her staunchest opponents cannot ignore her proven history of fighting for education reform. She has spent decades fighting to promote educational choices as a solution for ailing public schools. The most well known of these choices are charter schools. These privately owned schools are funded by tax dollars, typically with a voucher system. Although some claim they funnel money away from public schools, others such as DeVos believe they are using the power of the free market to force all schools to improve. Learn more: http://www.betsydevos.com/policy-involvement/
DeVos comes from a wealthy family, where educational choices were easy to afford. Her father was Edgar Prince, founder of the highly successful Prince Corporation. She, her husband Dick DeVos, and their children all attended private schools. While her children were in school, she visited the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was there that she first began to advocate for educational choices. She met many low-income families that were struggling to afford alternatives to public schools. Their struggles made her decide to help provide all students with the choices that she and her family enjoyed. “We knew we had the resources to send our kids to whatever school was best for them. For these parents, however, paying tuition was a real sacrifice. We started supporting individual students at the school, and that grew into a larger commitment,” she said during an interview with Philanthropy Round Table.
Since that time, she has served on the board of both the Children First America charity and the American Education Reform Council. She helped Michigan pass a charter-school bill in 1993, and later attempted to push changes through to the state’s constitution in support of charter school vouchers. She also explained in her interview that Florida was one of the most successful states for educational choices, with over 50,000 students in non-public schools.
Last February, when President Trump rescinded a policy to allow transgender students to use their choice of bathrooms, DeVos quickly met with transgender representatives in the Education Department to speak with them regarding the issue. During the first few months of her term, she also reached out to Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association. Although Ms. Weingarten expressed concerns about DeVos’s motivations, she still agreed to talk with her and visit schools together. Despite her critics, DeVos is serious enough about supporting education that she and her husband have donated over $3 million in support of schools, with $357,000 of those donations going to groups that support reform efforts. In an interview with the New York Times, Greg McNeilly, a Republican politician from Michigan and colleague of DeVos explained, “People in Washington will find out, opposition only emboldens her.”