Betsy DeVos Speaks Softly but Fights for Education Reforms

The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump. Critics said that DeVos lacked experienced working directly in public education. They said she fumbled an answer about allowing guns in schools to fight grizzly bears in rural locations. Despite the critics, DeVos secured the confirmation and took her office ready to fight for change in U.S. education.


The change came quickly as one of DeVos’ first moves was to rescind a policy regarding transgender students that Obama put into place in his last weeks in office. Obama’s policy regarded transgender students and bathroom use. Under the policy, students can choose what bathroom to use based on their gender identity. Therefore, a student who identifies as male may use the male bathroom. A student who identifies as female uses the female bathroom. DeVos rescinded the policy on a federal level.


Even though she rescinded the policy, DeVos took the time to meet with a person that speaks for transgender and gay employees at the U.S. Department of Education before she announced the policy shift. She wanted them to know about the change before they found out about it from the media. An aide said that DeVos didn’t want to take on the policy shift. She said that she got her marching order from the Trump administration.


However, DeVos hasn’t said publicly that she disagrees with the policy shift. In fact, she has said the opposite. She says that the original policy was too much and too far. She told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the Obama administration policy gave too much direction to the states and local school boards that can create their own policy.


DeVos’ stint as the U.S. Secretary of Education is hardly her first venture into trying to influence education policy. DeVos has a long history of advocating for education changes in her home state of Michigan. DeVos and her family have spearheaded efforts for school choice and school vouchers in the state. They were not able to convince taxpayers in the state to adopt a school voucher system. Her family has also supported local education efforts in the West Michigan area. They’ve financially supported charter schools like Potter’s House Christian School and the West Michigan Aviation Academy that’s housed at the Grand Rapids International Airport.


The DeVos family made their money from their success in multilevel marketing companies like Amway and Quixtar. The companies were co-founded by DeVos’ father-in-law, Richard DeVos. The family has used their wealth to support the arts and other civic programs in West Michigan. Their funds have built entertainment and convention center DeVos place and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.


DeVos grew up in Holland, Michigan. Her family still has property there. Her brother is Erick Prince, the founder of military defense powerhouse Blackwater USA. DeVos studied business economics at Calvin College. She earned her degree in 1979. While at Calvin, DeVos met future husband Dick DeVos. Her father-in-law, Richard DeVos, boasts a net worth of approximately $5 billion. Learn more:

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