Betsy DeVos: Driving Educational Reform in Washington

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is far from being a Washington insider. She was a controversial pick by the Trump administration, and only made it through her confirmation hearings due to a tiebreaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. DeVos was a surprising pick for the Secretary of Education role due to her lack of experience with public education: neither she nor her husband, Dick DeVos, nor any of their children have attended public schools.


Ms. DeVos is a proponent of charter schools, which flies in the face of the Department of Education’s traditional, public-school ideology. Although she spoke to the fact that most students in America go to public schools during her confirmation hearings, she has been reported as expressing opinions to the contrary after assuming her new role. She has stated that even the best U.S. public schools aren’t at the same level as public schools from other nations, and giving parents a voice through charter schools and school vouchers is the way to improve the educational system in the long run.


Charter schools rely on public money, but are typically operated by private, often for-profit, organizations. Many supporters of public schools point to the failure of charter schools to improve the educational outcomes in Detroit and other urban areas. DeVos is steadfast in her support for charter schools and educational vouchers, as she feels that empowering parents to “vote with their vouchers” is the way to give them a say in the management of their children’s education.


Ms. Devos’s father, Edgar Prince, founded an auto-parts company that is now worth billions, and her husband’s father was a co-founder of the multi-level marketing giant Amway. Ms. DeVos and her husband Dick DeVos have long supported charter schools and educational institutions through their charitable donations and foundations.


Although new to Washington and the political environment, DeVos is a determined, savvy political player who will learn the ropes and knock down the barriers that get in her way. Former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and long-time participant in Michigan politics, she has used her influence and money to support those with similar ideals, and to punish those who oppose her.


DeVos has challenges ahead of her in Washington with her agenda and her support of charter schools. However, she has the tenacity and wherewithal to overcome any obstacles in her path.


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