Betsy Devos and the Educational Choice Movement

Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick DeVos garner a great deal of attention. The Michigan natives are known for their generous giving through their endowment fund, as well as their strong stance on charter schools and school choice.


While some may view Mrs. DeVos as a shrinking violet, the people who know her best say it’s not smart to take her for granted. She was a powerful voice in Michigan politics and she’s know to be a fighter.


Now that she’s taken on a new job as Education Secretary, she will still be just as formidable. The people rubbed shoulders with Ms. DeVos through the years warn against the assumption she will be a meek team player. She may seem publicly gracious but in her home state, she is known as a relentless survivor. She is known for using her family’s vast fortune to punish those who go against her.


Former state attorney general Mike Cox says she’s earned a pretty tough reputation. And it’s not just because she has a lot of money.


She may have arrived in Washington with little experience, but she’s eager to learn. Even her toughest critics expect her to learn the ropes.


“Don’t underestimate her,” said Association of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “That’s the biggest mistake people make.” Weingarten says DeVos my come across as plain-spoken, but she’s dangerous to education.


The Holland, MI native grew up with great privilege. Her father, billionaire automotive parts magnate Edgar Prince, was also a pusher of conservative causes. Her brother, Erik, is the owner and CEO of Blackwater, a private security firm.


DeVos’ opponents also point to her lack of connection to schools and financial aid, as well as her unfamiliarity with plain, everyday people, a point of contention.


One of the biggest complaints is she steered tax dollars away from public schools to put into charter schools. “The charter schools in her state are under-performing,” said Weingarten. That alone gives me pause and even deepens suspicions about what’s to come.”


Despite all the criticisms, DeVos says she ready for the challenge. In one of her first acts as Sec. of Education, she reached out to Weingarten to go on a tour of Washington D.C. schools.


Republican operative Greg McNally says it was a smart move reaching out to Weingarten. “She knows what she is facing in Washington. It only emboldens her to do more.”


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