On the eve of confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s nominee for Education secretary, American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten blasted Betsy DeVos as “the most anti-public education nominee” ever.
DeVos is a “fairly traditional, center-right education reformer,” not a radical, argues Michael Q. McShane in Education Next.
She “has a long history of supporting the kinds of accountability and school-choice policies that a broad swath of the education-reform community has championed over the last two decades,” he writes.
DeVos grew up in a wealthy family, then married an Amway heir. She and her husband, Dick DeVos, are major donors to Republican candidates and conservative causes, as well as to education, the arts, their community, etc.
As a whole, the DeVos family has given $1.33 billion to charity, according to Forbes’ list of America’s Top Givers of 2015. That’s one-quarter of their current net worth, making them the “24th most-generous philanthropic family in the United States,” writes McShane.
DeVos’ interest in education reform was spared by a visit to The Potter’s House, a “Christ-centered” school that serves low-income students in Grand Rapids, she said in a 2013 interview with Philanthropy Roundtable. She and her husband started by funding private-school scholarships for low-income students, but worried about the many children who needed better schools.
Potter’s House school in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I’m most focused on educational choice,” she said. “But, thinking more broadly, what we are trying to do is tear down the mindset that assigns students to a school based solely on the ZIP Code of their family’s home. We advocate instead for as much freedom as possible.”
Betsy and Dick DeVos also founded West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter high school in Grand Rapids.
Some conservatives are dubious about DeVos, reports McShane. GLEP backed Common Core standards, when they were adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education in 2010.
“When governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense,” writes DeVos on her web site. She abandoned the Core when the U.S. Education Department intervened, she claims.
Ed Week rounds up the nominee’s backers and detractors.
Update: DeVos’ confirmation hearings have been postponed by one week.