Betsy DeVos Is No Stranger to Education Reform
Even though U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is new to a federal political office, she’s no stranger to trying to enact education reform. DeVos has been active in politics since her days attending Calvin College on the upscale east side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s where she met Amway heir Dick DeVos. The two married shortly after college and began their life of political and educational activism.
Betsy DeVos even led the Michigan Republican Party. That’s in addition to working on a handful of political campaigns including her husband’s run for Michigan Governor. In her time in politics, she’s looked for new ideas and new answers to social questions and issues.
The DeVos family also owns and operates the DeVos Family Foundation. The Foundation invests in a range of charitable projects throughout West Michigan. Before her stint as Education Secretary, she also served in leadership positions at Mars Hill Bible Church and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
DeVos has always been a proponent of school choice. Her efforts led to an initiative for Michigan to adopt vouchers for public education. Voters turned the measure down. However, DeVos says that vouchers can work if the public is willing to give them a chance. She says that there’s more interest than ever before in non-traditional school programs like vouchers and charter schools. DeVos says that people are sick of failing, traditional public schools, and they’re more interested in new options than ever before.
DeVos says that her own children inspired her. She said that she wanted to send her children to the best possible schools that they could. She said that she didn’t want other parents left helpless to find good choices for their children because of cost. She points to the Potter’s House Christian School as a success story where parents can find an affordable, alternative for their children if they want something besides their assigned public school.
DeVos says that it’s about helping all children realize their potential. She says that children are unique and diverse and that it’s not reasonable to expect one school to serve all types of kids. DeVos says that it’s up to parents to decide what’s best for their kids instead of school administrators.
In addition to her activism in politics, the DeVos family also backs an aviation-themed high school in Grand Rapids. The school operates out of the Grand Rapids airport. The school teaches aviation as well as traditional subjects like English, math and foreign language. She says that it’s important for all schools to be accountable for the children they serve and for the finances of operating the school.
DeVos grew up in Holland, Michigan. Her brother, Erik Prince, runs a military defense contracting firm. Erik Prince was a Navy Seal.
The DeVos family is known for their wealth with an estimated net worth in the billions. DeVos’ confirmation as Secretary of Education was highly contested. Opponents said that she lacked the experience of working in the trenches that she needed in order to truly understand teachers in public school. Eventually, she was confirmed with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
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