In the time leading up to the Trump Administration’s cancellation of the Obama-era transgender school bathroom bill, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos clashed with other influential members of the administration. She felt the policy should remain in force. Other members of the administration, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pushed the president to rescind the policy. Though education is her turf, the president went counter to her recommendation.
Some have viewed this as a defeat for DeVos, but people familiar with her work in Michigan politics warn against underestimating her. She earned a reputation in the state as a tough political fighter. She chaired the Michigan Republican Party, a position you don’t get without knowing how to take on political opposition and win. Her publicly gracious persona shows class and should never be mistaken for deferential meekness, her Michigan colleagues note. She has used her family’s considerable fortune to advance politicians who believe in her mission and punish those who worked against it. She has worked behind the scenes to unseat many opponents in the Michigan Congress.
Mrs. DeVos’s political efforts have paid big dividends in Michigan and around the country. She believes passionately in the right of parents to choose schools for their children, regardless of ability to pay private school tuition. She advocated for increased public funding for private schools through vouchers and tax incentives to help families of modest means afford private schools. As a result, Detroit boasts the most extensive network of charter schools in the country.
Political opponents in Michigan claimed that Detroit’s charter schools were underperforming and attempted to create a mechanism to close many of them through a bill in the state legislature. In response, Mrs. DeVos created the Great Lakes Education Project, which successfully combated the bill. Mrs. DeVos argued that the charter schools provide much better education than Detroit’s public schools while also providing free choice. This serves as an example of her political determination and acmen that her Michigan political colleagues expect to see during her Washington tenure.
Mrs. DeVos has also devoted her time and political and financial resources to educational philanthropy. In a recent interview with Philanthropy Roundtable, she recounted how she and her husband, Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune, became interested in donating to private schools after visiting a Grand Rapids private Christian school. She noted how much the families struggled to afford the education they wanted for their children. After seeing the hardships this created, she became politically active and has worked for education reform in Michigan and across the nation.
Betsy DeVos was born in Holland, Michigan. She graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While in college, she met her future husband, Dick DeVos. The couple has four adult children. Mrs. DeVos was appointed education secretary by President Trump in November, 2016. Her strong belief in education reform through school-choice initiatives has made her popular amongst conservatives.
To learn more, visit www.betsydevos.com.