Betsy Devos Is Full of Surprises

No one would have believed that U.S Education Secretary Betsy DeVos disagreed with a decision President Donald Trump made. Yet, she did.


DeVos didn’t talk about it publicly but quietly stood beside the president during the press conference announcing the decision to pull back a federal policy allowing transgender students to use the school bathrooms of their gender identity. An aide stated DeVos was hesitant toward the move but would proceed under the president’s direction.


This is the Betsy DeVos the general public, and those in the nation’s capital, don’t know. She comes across as meek and inexperienced but isn’t always as she seems. DeVos has been in political frays for the past 30 plus years, winning more than she’s lost. Political foes back home in Michigan say she is someone no one should take on as they would an amateur.


Detroit has more charter schools than most metropolitan cities and most believe DeVos has a lot to do with that. She started a non-profit advocacy organization, specifically to promote charter schools and school vouchers where the money follows students. The idea is that parents could use the vouchers to send their children anywhere, reportedly increasing competition among schools.


Betsy DeVos made some waves once she took her secretary post by visiting many schools, including public, private and charter schools, and meeting with those who would typically not seem to be supportive. She called the heads of two prominent teacher unions and toured a series of schools in Miami, including a tour given by the rapper Pitbull. The singer, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, started a charter school that peaked DeVos’ interest.


Gary Neayaert, former director of the Great Lakes Education Project, said DeVos is unique in another way. While most would think her money would prevent her from empathizing with average Americans, Naeyaert said nothing is further from the truth.


He said she is genuine and a “regular person” who just happens to be a millionaire or billionaire.


DeVos, who is from Holland, Mich., is an heiress to a fortune created by her father, Edgar Prince, who turned auto parts into a billion-dollar business. He was also a primary donor to Christian conservative groups, a trait picked up by his daughter. DeVos’ husband, Dick DeVos, is the heir to his father’s fortune generated by founding the multi-level marketing company Amway.


It is also a surprising fact for many that the couple has given away around $139 million over their lifetimes. They donate to education and Michigan schools, including their own charter school at the Grand Rapids airport, cultural efforts, art education, and local Michigan community groups.


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