If you followed the 2016 election and saw the cabinet appointments in the months following, you may have noticed the fierce battle that ensued to get Betsy DeVos nominated for US Secretary of Education. But often overlooked is just how much work DeVos did in the years prior to this election and why many educators can thank her and the non-profit groups she’s a part of. She sat down once with Philanthropy Roundtable several years ago to explain why she supports school of choice.DeVos explained that she first got into her efforts to fund private K-12 schools and start scholarships because as a parent of several children, she saw how tough it was for other families to afford the same privileges on lower paychecks. That’s when she and her husband Dick got the idea to start the Education Freedom Fund followed by Kids Hope USA and Children First. She talked about a setback they had when they tried to introduce a tax credit and voucher program in the state’s constitution for the year 2000, but it was this setback that led to a new endeavor that included increasing charter school availability, and many of the DeVos’s friends started seeing a national movement.
So just how long has Betsy DeVos been involved in grassroots conservative activism that she also mentions in the interview? She grew up in a strong business-minded family, the daughter of Edgar Prince who founded Prince Corporation, one of Michigan’s most famous manufacturing companies. Her political activities started while she was attending Calvin College where she has also served as a trustee after graduating. Her interests in fighting for important social reforms and economic freedoms attracted another young man to her who was a businessman and activist. That man was Dick DeVos Jr., son of Amway Founder and major Republican donor Richard DeVos Sr.Together, Dick and Betsy DeVos founded The Windquest Group, a highly profitable investment firm from which they’ve been able to fund the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the key parent foundation to their scholarship and other charity works.
Betsy DeVos also took a lead role in the Michigan Republican Party in 1996 when she won election to the position as Chairwoman. In the year 2000 she stepped down because she felt she could only be a follower and not a leader in this position, but in the year 2003 she once again returned feeling that this time she could do more. While Democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm held office, it was said that Betsy DeVos was “her worst nightmare” due to the strong measures DeVos used to combat her policies. The then President-elect Trump’s nomination of DeVos to Education Secretary in 2016 was highly surprising because DeVos had been outspoken against the man she said didn’t represent the Republican Party, but after receiving the nomination said that it would be her “honor” to accept the position.
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