Beginning with campus leadership as a student at Calvin College, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been involved in politics. With six years of service as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan who has invested her life in seeking solutions to deep social problems impacting children and families, and first and foremost: education and educational choice.
DeVos’ interest in educational choice began when she and her husband Dick DeVos, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and State Board of Education member, visited The Potter’s House Christian school in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Potter’s House has served low-income families and children with needs for over three decades, and DeVos has also mentored a student there for a number of years.
Repeated visits to the Potter’s House showed that the school was providing an excellent education for students, but lower-income parents were making huge sacrifices to pay tuition to the privately-funded Christian school. In addition to offering scholarships to individual students, Dick and Betsy DeVos began providing additional financial support to the school, a commitment that continues.
Providing scholarships on an individual basis, Betsy DeVos soon realized, wouldn’t make the fundamental change necessary to offer every parent the chance to send their children to the school of their choice. The next step was advocating in Michigan for school choice initiatives, including tax-credit scholarships and vouchers. These state-wide initiatives evolved into national efforts through political and charitable foundations, including the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice. These initiatives had success in building greater school choice, especially in Florida, where the state’s tax-credit scholarship program has led to more than 50,000 students attending a school chosen by their families.
While some news reports have described Betsy DeVos as “unprepared” for her position as U.S. Secretary of Education, a recent visit to Saint Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida with President Donald Trump showed her experience with private schools beginning with her involvement with the Potter’s House School in Grand Rapids more than two decades ago. Potter’s House school superintendent John Booy, who has worked with Dick and Betsy DeVos for over 30 years, says that Betsy DeVos is a consensus builder who not only helped their local church through turbulent times as a congregation leader, she also has a knack for listening to all perspectives.
Those who have worked with DeVos for over 30 years like John Booy say she is a “regular person” who is just like everyone else, even though she and her husband Dick both come from wealthy families. As of January, 2017, the couple announced their charitable donations had totaled nearly $139 million. Combined with Dick’s father, Amway founder Rich DeVos, in 2015 alone, the entire family gave away more than $104 million, ranking the family as 24th most-generous on Forbes’ magazine’s most recent top charitable donor list. Learn more: http://www.betsydevos.com/policy-involvement/