What we need to know about Betsy Devos

People of the state of Michigan who know Betsy DeVos best are having trouble reconciling the fighter they know with the person who was recently confirmed as President Trump’s Education Secretary.


DeVos has made many friends through her travails in Michigan politics. She has people whom she is friendly with on both sides of the aisle. But those who know her as polite, pragmatic, and generous, is coming off as aloof, unprepared, and even insulated.


The former Betsy Prince was born into an affluent Dutch family in Holland, Michigan. She grew up with conservative leanings, and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Not long after graduating college, she married into an even wealthier family — The DeVoses. Her husband Dick DeVos is the son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos.


Over the years, the couple has used their massive wealth to push for charter schools. They have also given to a number of charities and religious causes. Mrs. DeVos’s political leanings shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially when you look at her family’s ties to the Netherlands.


The debate over public and private schools was a huge issue that dates all the way back to the 1800s in her home country. In the Netherlands, liberal politicians argued against religious schools receiving the same funding as secular schools. This angered reformers and conservatives. What took place in the Netherlands is also one of the earliest known forms of school choice.


The Calvin College theology is the blueprint for what Mrs. DeVos believes in. It is also what the Trump Administration is now pushing. Critics argue that the push towards more religious schools violates the tenants of separation of church and state.


Another knock against school choice is the lack of oversight. Mrs. DeVos opposes this regulation, which many believe is the the detriment of the programs. Even some of her supporters are at odds with her over the lack of monitoring.


Wayne State University Education Professor Thomas Pedroni says Mrs. DeVos has done much to harm public education. “She is a divisive figure,” said Pedroni. The fact that so many charter schools in Michigan are publicly funded and privately operated is not good.


The Potter House is a school in Michigan that the Mrs. DeVos finds near and dear to her heart. She has devoted a lot of time to the school in the form of volunteering. She and her husband have also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment and other things needed by the school.


Many people who know Mrs. DeVos say her critics really don’t know her at all. “She has a good heart. And she does everything she can for people in need, said Potter House superintendent John Booy.”


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