Many people who have met Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are shocked to find how much different she is from the way the press portrays her. Although she has very little political experience compared to other members of the Trump Administration, she still made a name for herself as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and a major GOP donor from a wealthy family. Born Betsy Prince in 1958, she and her husband, Amway scion Frank DeVos, have given away large sums of money to conservative political causes. The one DeVos supports the most is the one that makes some of her critics the angriest: charter schools and school vouchers. Partly because of this stance, she has been characterized her as “dangerous” by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. However, Weingarten conceded, “[t]here is a real tendency to underestimate her.”
The Trump Administration supports the idea of school vouchers despite critics claiming that using government money for religious schools would be a violation of church and state. DeVos herself is also critical of regulation of the school voucher system, believing that the free market will do the best job of picking the winners and losers. Being of Dutch ancestry and having been educated in a private Christian school herself, she bases her beliefs on a similar system in modern Holland, but critics have pointed out they are much more tightly regulated than the ones here.
While her efforts helped bring charter schools to Detroit, critics argued the results did not meet or exceed expectations, nor did it do anything to solve the age-old problems with the city’s public schools. Before President Trump appointed her as Secretary of Education, a DeVos-supported group called Great Lakes Education Project successfully fought against legislation regulating the charter schools in Detroit; it also argued the public schools were too far gone and should be shut down.
However, her supporters within the GOP, including Michigan party operative Greg McNeilly, argue that she understands the basic point behind school choice and vouchers: that the current system is flawed, is falling behind the rest of the developed world, and needs to change.
What does she have to say of media portrayals that her supporters contend made her out to look foolish or uninformed? Very little; she brushed it off saying “the media has had its fun with me, and that’s O.K.”
To learn more, visit http://www.betsydevos.com/.