U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is known in Michigan as a tenacious advocate for charter schools and parent choice in education. A former chair of Michigan’s state Republican Party, DeVos is known as personable, down-to-earth, and a tireless advocate for the goals she selects.
DeVos arrived in Washington, D.C. in February, 2017, with little experience in the Federal government and limited experience with President Donald Trump. Early in her tenure, a national controversy over an Obama Administration policy enforcing transgender student access to school bathrooms launched a behind-the-scenes difference in approach between DeVos and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Although privately, DeVos did not support rescinding the Obama Administration’s rule enforcing local districts to make bathrooms available for transgender students based on their stated gender identity, publically, DeVos supported the Trump Administration’s position. Her approach indicated she is a savvy “team player,” meeting privately with LGBT Education Department employees to discuss the policy change, and publically supporting the Trump Administration.
Rather than seeking to eliminate public schools, DeVos has worked for more than 25 years to provide alternatives, including charter schools and school choice initiatives such as vouchers. She is the founder of the Great Lakes Education Project, which led Detroit to have the largest number of charter schools in the nation.
In a 2017 interview with MLive, DeVos told reporters that she and her husband Dick, who contributed over $11.6 million to charity in 2015, were dedicated to educational causes because the U.S. educational system was failing to help students achieve “the American dream.”
Forbes reported that the extended DeVos family, which includes Betsy’s husband Dick, the son of Amway founder Richard DeVos, has donated over $1.33 billion over their collective charitable lifetimes. The family’s 2015 giving placed them #24 on Forbes’ “Top Givers” list.
Betsy DeVos wants to seek solutions to a “one size fits all” educational system. A major barrier in the system that she perceives is the ZIP code problem. With students assigned to a public school based only on their ZIP code, their parents have no choice but to send their child to a local public school.
With experience supporting private schools including the Potter’s House in Grand Rapids, Mich., Betsy DeVos has also been involved with a number of political advocacy, education policy, and not-for-profit educational foundations which have successfully launched school choice movements and charter schools in Indiana, Michigan, and Florida. State surveys showed that many families supported school choice initiatives in the different states, particularly Florida.
DeVos highlighted this success with an April, 2017 trip to Miami, Fla. to visit the charter school founded by Armando Christian Pérez, also known the rapper Pitbull. She focused on educational diversity with visits to a public elementary school, a private Christian academy, and Pitbull’s SLAM Academy charter school. Later in her South Florida visit, DeVos also toured Miami Dade College, a former community college which has expanded to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.
To learn more, visit http://www.betsydevos.com/.