Since Betsy DeVos was appointed to the position of United States Secretary of Education in 2017, much of her stance on education has come under scrutiny. Many Democrats have portrayed DeVos as a meek conservative willing to go along with whatever agenda was placed in front of her. But this portrayal of DeVos does not take into consideration her entire history at the forefront of the reform movement.
DeVos hails from Holland, Michigan, a city in the western part of the state. Her father, Edgar Prince, was the founder of a billion-dollar auto parts company. He also believed in championing conservative causes. In 1979, at the age of 21, Betsy married fellow wealthy Michigan conservative and Amway heir, Dick DeVos. The couple would go on to have three children. It was while these three children were in school that Betsy would begin her lifelong championing of educational reform.
Potter’s House Christian School
While the DeVos children were attending Potter’s House Christian School, DeVos began to recognize that not all the families were able to afford the private education as easily as the DeVos family. DeVos would state in 2013 that she witnessed families having difficulty paying their bills but still doing everything possible to send their children to the safe and enhanced learning environment of the private Christian school. Witnessing these parents made DeVos began to support the tuition of several of the children from low-income families.
Scholarships to Low Income Children
After her husband was elected to the State Board of Education in Michigan in 1990, Betsy DeVos began a foundation that aimed to give scholarships to low-income families. The goal of these scholarships was to help parents have the freedom to send their children where they wanted to go to school.
Educational Choice Movement
As the 1990s progressed, DeVos became involved in two charities associated with the educational choice movement: Children First America and American Education Reform Council. Both of these organizations sought to increase the school choices available to parents through the use of tax credits or vouchers.
Reaching Out to Teachers’ Unions
Since coming to Washington, DeVos has faced a lot of criticism from those who fear she does not like public schools and would have them fail so that charter schools could succeed. But one of DeVos’ first actions upon becoming secretary was to reach out to both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. For a woman who has spent most of her adult life campaigning for educational reform, the action was a way to demonstrate to a wary public how much educational reform mattered to her.
Follow Betsy DeVos on twitter.