Betsy DeVos Works for Education Choice

Just before President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama administration’s requirement that public schools provide students with transgender bathrooms, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with a representative of the department’s transgender employees. She assured them that she opposed the move. Despite this, she publicly supported Trump’s move, calling the Obama-era requirement, “overreach.”

 

Though this causes some to conclude that Mrs. DeVos bowed to the administration’s pressure, people who have known her through her many years as the Michigan Republican Party chairwoman say she has always been a tough political fighter. She has also been an influential republican donor and a tireless advocate for charter schools and school vouchers in Michigan. Though she may appear gracious in public, they note, behind the scenes she has used her influence and power effectively. Using her strong position as one of the wealthiest donors in Michigan, she has rewarded political allies and punished political foes, ensuring those on her side rose while driving adversaries out of office.

 

Opponents of DeVos decry her opposition to public schools. They note that in Michigan, she has pushed hard to take funding away from public schools and increase public funding for charter schools. On the other hand, supporters see her as a beacon for educational freedom, allowing parents to have the choice in how their children are educated, rather than government bureaucrats. Betsy DeVos has created educational reform for decades through many non-profit roles.

 

In a recent interview with Philanthropy Roundtable, she notes that she has never been more optimistic about the growth of charter schools. She cited the 250,000 students across America that are in 33 publicly-funded private school programs. She explained that support for public funding of private schools has increased in recent years as the public becomes more aware of public education’s shortfalls.

 

Ms. DeVos explained that she became interested in education reform after visiting Potter Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She saw how difficult it was for parents to afford educational costs. She also saw how the students benefitted from this private education. Because of this, she became involved in philanthropic efforts to help parents afford private schools. She further explained that both she and her husband became involved in the educational-choice movement through both involvement in the state board of education and multiple philanthropic efforts to assist low-income families with scholarships.

 

Ms. DeVos also underscored the importance of school choice in urban areas where parents are desperate for alternatives to the public school systems. She noted her efforts have succeeded nationwide, with her largest success in Florida. Florida now enjoys the nation’s largest growth in educational choice, with over 50,000 students attending the schools chosen by their families.

 

Born in Holland, Michigan, Betsy DeVos has had a strong belief in educational choice since her youth. Both she and her husband have supported the right of parents to make decisions regarding their children’s education and worked to provide parents with alternatives. Learn more: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/a-tale-of-two-betsy-devoses/518952/