Recently appointed U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a terrific philanthropist and education reformer who has been politically active for over 30 years. Philanthropy Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. DeVos, prior to her Education Secretary appointment, about her work in education reform and school choice.
She started off the interview indicating she was very optimistic about the movement of publicly funded, private-choice school programs. She cited some examples of states that either expanded or developed new programs, while providing vital statistics backing up her information. She made clear her contention that public schools in many cases are failing. She feels that once people realize what problems existed in the public school system, people would be more open to what were once considered radical reforms. Reforms like tax credits, vouchers, and education savings accounts.
Mrs. DeVos stated that no one specific incident drew her in to the movement. It came over time as she and her husband Dick made numerous visits to a Christian school (Potter’s House Christian School). Potter’s House was serving much of Grand Rapids, Michigan and their low-income families, having done so for 30 years. The DeVos’ started off supporting individual students, which grew into a larger commitment.
While helping parents from low-income families, Betsy get involved by starting a foundation that gave low-income families scholarships, enabling them to decide where to send their children to school. This was how she became involved in the education-choice movement. She went on to outline the roles she served in the 1990s and in 2000, which involved serving on the boards of two charities.
She elaborated on her political career and initiatives she was active with through her political action committee in Michigan. The she sketched out the history of her involvement with AFC, including what the program was all about as well as how legislation was passed.
She cites as great successes her work in Florida with their tax-credit scholarship program. She explained in detail the major advances in Louisiana and Indiana, and her involvement in those states.
Betsy feels that educational-choice programs can be worked on on a bipartisan level. She explained her ideas on the virtues of grassroots activity. And in individual questions and answers, she touted the methods of digital learning, homeschooling, and charter schools. She concluded by outlining how she spent her time working and volunteering in her myriad number of interests.
Betsy is married to billionaire businessman Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded Amway. Betsy’s family is wealthy as well. Her father founded the Prince Corporation in Holland, Michigan, a corporation that turned into a billion-dollar entity.
Follow Betsy DeVos on Facebook for updates.
The monetary charitable contributions the DeVos’ have made is mind-boggling. Over their lifetimes, they have made contributions totaling almost $139 million, with $11.6 million of that coming in 2015 alone. Forbes put the extended DeVos family’s lifetime giving at $1.33 billion, or about %25 of their estimated fortune. There should be no doubt that Betsy, Dick, their four children, and other DeVos family members will continue to make generous, heartfelt contributions for years to come, benefitting so many both locally and nationally.