Four years ago, President Trump’s Secretary of Education told the Philanthropic Roundtable how she got involved with reforming the nation’s school system. She and her husband Dick DeVos visited Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids. She was impressed by how badly the parents of those students wanted their children to learn in a safe environment. She and her husband then had school-age children, so they could identify. However, she and her husband had the family income to send their children to any school of their choice. For the parents of Potter’s House’s students, paying the tuition involved great sacrifice. She was struck by how badly those low-income parents wanted a choice for their children that was not the public schools. DeVos told the Philanthropic Roundtable that she was quite optimistic about the future of school choice. Vouchers and such topics had once been radical ideas, when she first advocated them, but now were becoming more popular. And that was because the public school systems are failing. That is driving many people to consider alternatives. She explained in the interview Florida was school choice’s greatest success story at that point. It had a widespread tax-credit scholarship program. They had a great program in Florida to convince both policy makers and the general public of the value of school choice. That gave it a broad base of support.
Betsy DeVos said successful political reform involves getting the right people elected, helping to craft great laws to implement the new policies, getting those laws passed and then helping students to find good schools to attend. She said that at the American Federation for Children, they work on all those levels, unlike all the other school reform organizations. And, she stresses the need to make school reform perceived as either a bipartisan or nonpartisan issue. This is an interesting perspective from a woman who spent six years in charge of the Michigan Republican Party. And who would never had been appointed Secretary of Education under any Democratic president. And she points out that the teachers union have traditionally supported Democratic candidates. And they strongly oppose school choice. However, DeVos insists that school choice should be a nonpartisan issue because it affects the education of all children. And she believes there is a growing interest in educational reform among Democratic legislators. And there are grassroots support for educational choice that spans both political parties. Check this related article from nypost.com.
She and her husband formed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation years ago. Although they do contribute a lot of resources to advancing their goal of educational reform, they also support Mars Hill Bible Church, Kids Hope USA and the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, Success Academy Charter Schools, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy, ArtPrize Grand Rapids, the XPrize Foundation and the Boy Scouts of America.