Betsy DeVos and Educational Reform

Betsy DeVos has been in the public eye for decades, and with her appointment as Secretary of Education for the Trump Administration, she continues to draw attention. Prior to her arrival on the national stage, Betsy DeVos was a very public figure in Michigan, where she grew up. Daughter of the wealthy and influential Prince family, she was educated at Calvin College and became involved with numerous conservative campaigns, political action committees and party organizations. She married the even wealthier Dick DeVos, son of the founder of Amway, and together they have made even bigger names for themselves in the political arena.

 

Though this may be the very public face of Betsy DeVos, close to her heart are her charitable organizations where she pushes for reforms through nonprofits. She is chairman of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, a member of multiple national and local boards such as the DeVos Institute for Arts Management, the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Kids Hope USA. She is a leader in the educational-choice movement, which endorses the public funding of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious private institutions.

 

In an interview with Philanthropy magazine, Ms. DeVos discussed her work in education reform further. Her passionate interest in education reform did not start suddenly. Rather, it grew out of visits to the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, which was serving many low-income families. She was struck by the parents of children who did not have much choice when it came to schools, and who wanted to make sure that their children were receiving the best education in the safest place possible. They started supporting families at the school for whom tuition was a significant financial burden, and the movement to grew from there.

 

During the 1990s, Ms. DeVos served on the boards of several charities that worked to expand educational choice with the use of vouchers and tax credits. At the time, this was considered a radical movement, but both Dick and Betsy DeVos became politically involved and passed Michigan’s first charter school bill in 1993. As chair of the Michigan Republican Party, she pushed for a constitutional amendment for educational reform in Michigan to help expand charter schools throughout the state. The success of this movement spurred her supporters to try and push it nationwide.

 

Many people remain critical of her educational reform model, arguing that finite public tax dollars flowing too heavily toward charter schools and vouchers will stave public education centers. DeVos feels strongly that many of the nation’s public schools are downright failing, and that freedom of choice is the only option for reform.

 

To learn more, visit http://www.betsydevos.com/.

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