Betsy DeVos: the new Education Secretary

The people who have known Betsy DeVos the most and worked with her the closest throughout her many years of philanthropic work in the educational realm tend to describe her as a reformer. This identity began to form through her political activism in college and then continued through attempts to reform aspects of the education system in her home state of Michigan. She has attempted to reform many aspects of public life including education, various businesses through her devotion to various social and political causes. She has been chairperson on the boards nonprofit institutions as varied as educational, political, religious, economic and arts foundations.


DeVos’ work in education-related causes have come in the form of advocacy for the controversial voucher program and charter schools. She is a proponent for educational choice that gives options including those just mentioned in addition to a variety of homeschooling options, parochial and religious schools. Her work has been centered on the belief that parents should have the widest pool of choices available to them in order to pick the manner in which they see fit for their child/children to receive a primary education. Although traditional public schools remain among the choices she suggests parents should have, much of her advocacy has flowed out of her conviction that public schools in America are generally failing. By giving parents other options, many suggest that she is subtly attempting to remove students from public schools and promote other forms of education.


In a 2013 interview, DeVos reported perceived success in spreading charter schools across a few states. All of those states, however, were governed by people with similar educational viewpoints and priorities as DeVos, so it was difficult to see from that interview if her success was as widespread as she claimed. In later years, her agendas did indeed grow in such states——especially Louisiana and Florida——but any major growth was limited to only a few states. The 2013 interviewee asked questions that hinted at a connection between Devos’ educational philosophies and partisan stances. Though she denied this connection, the interviewee attempted to expose holes in her argument by highlighting the limits of her agenda’s growth along with the lack of support from those with political leanings that do not coincide with the Republican Party. She attempted to persuade that Democrats wanted to support her in her educational endeavors, yet she gave no examples of any such person who supported her or what such support would entail. The interview indeed points to Devos’ strong stances on both educational and political matters and to a likely connection between the two.


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