Newly confirmed Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos may come off as politically polite, but her friends and foes will tell you she is no light-weight. The daughter of billionaire conservative industrialist Edgar Prince learned from a young age that you have to stand up for what you believe.
Before she assumed her position in the Trump administration, she was a decades-long advocate of school choice and education reform in her home state of Michigan. The former Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman was driven and relentless when it came to education. DeVos believes that children should have a choice when it comes to education.
In 2002, she spearheaded an initiative that would require tax-payers to foot the bill for private schools; it was soundly voted down. The lack of support in Michigan even further emboldened her. Randi Weingarten President of The American Federation of Teachers says people have a tendency to underestimate her. Even Michigan’s former attorney general Mike Cox (R) agrees. “She knows how to instill fear in people.”
DeVos is married to billionaire and philanthropist Dick DeVos. His father, Richard DeVos, is the co-founder of Amway Corporation. She and her husband wield a great deal of political clout in Michigan. Now that she is settling into her new job as Sec. of Education, many wonder if she will be able to learn the ropes.
Opponents have made much hay over the fact that DeVos has no experience with public colleges. Neither she, her husband or children attended one, nor did they have experience with financial aid programs.
In Michigan, DeVos fought to steer tax dollars away from public schools to fund private schools. A number of people accused her of purposely attempting to starve public schools of funding while creating unnecessary competition between public and private schools. DeVos argued that families had a right to send their children to the school of their choice.
Because of DeVos, Michigan has more charter schools than any other state. Her critics note that most of the schools are vastly under-performing and oversight is virtually non-existent. On the flip side, Michigan public schools are among the poorest-performing in the nation and getting worse every year.
Last year, DeVos fought against and won a bill put forth to close failing charter schools and opening new one. Weingarten said it was a brazen attempt to ensure that public schools fail.
During her confirmation hearings, DeVos emphasized that she isn’t an enemy of public schools. After her confirmation passed with a 50-50 vote, one of her first acts as Sec. of Education was to call Weingarten.
People say it was a smart move by DeVos. While gaining support is her goal, she knows how to play politics. “Opposition only emboldens her,” said political advisory Greg McNelly.
To learn more, visit http://www.betsydevos.com/.