According to the article “Interview with Betsy DeVos, the Reformer” for the Spring 2013 issue of Philanthropy Roundtable, Mrs. DeVos first became involved in politics while attending Calvin College as a young woman. That commitment sparked a career that has lasted for forty years. What began with college politics grew into local campaigns; becoming chairman of the Michigan Republican Party; supporting her husband, Dick DeVos, for the Republican candidacy of the 2006 Michigan Gubernatorial Election; and ultimately being selected as Secretary of Education. It’s worth noting here that this interview with Mrs. DeVos occurred four years before her appointment as Education Secretary, and 3 years prior to the president who nominated her for the post was elected.
The author and interviewer refers to Mrs. DeVos as a reformer, citing the non-profit interests and foundations she and her husband have begun or supported. She is chairman of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, an organization with varied interests. Among the other recipients of the DeVos largess include the Kennedy Center, but their focus has mainly been on education. They have supported and advocated for parental choice when it comes to educating their children.
Betsy DeVos’ intention is clear on the topic of education – educational reform. While her views on school vouchers and choice have had a polarizing effect on those involved in the public education system across the country, the notion continues to grow in popularity. DeVos noted voucher programs were specifically on the rise in Florida, Louisiana, and Indiana. In spite of efforts by the Louisiana Department of Education who, by DeVos’ accounts attempted to thwart the newly implemented voucher program by only giving parents one week to sign up. DeVos relates the extensive efforts made by the pro-voucher camp through marketing and advertising to get the word out that parents had an option, but the decision needed to be made quickly.
Although many critics of Betsy DeVos’ agenda to implement school vouchers, tax credits, and charter school choices, have claimed that there’s a hidden platform of personal gain attached to her efforts. She and her husband appear to be steadfast in their mission to provide better educational opportunities for all children. In fact, she states in a question regarding charter schools as a viable alternative to public education, that it is one of many possibilities. It also takes a great deal of time, effort, and financing to create a charter school. DeVos offered as an alternative the private schools that are already in existence and could use the funds that vouchers would bring.
Dick and Betsy DeVos’ philanthropy goes back a long way. They began volunteering at Potter’s House Christian School, an inner-city private school in Grand Rapids, when their own children were school age. They were deeply impacted by the efforts parents with limited resources were making to send their children to a school that offered more opportunity than their local public school. That first encounter led the DeVoses to tutor and sponsor students, and finally create a scholarship fund. Learn more: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2017/01/dick_and_betsy_devos_lift_the.html