Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, was not a popular choice when President Donald Trump chose her for his cabinet. Many felt that she was unqualified and was only chosen due to her wealth and political connections. Since taking office, however, Secretary DeVos has proven herself to be driven, strong and relentless when she is fighting for her cause. Critics and admirers both say that she has been learning as much as she can and creating connections. She has been described as “plain-spoken, personable, yet dangerous.”


Early Years


Born Elisabeth Prince in Holland Michigan, Secretary DeVos is the daughter of Elsa Zwiep Prince Borekhulzen and Edgar Prince. Her father, a billionaire, was the founder of Prince Corporation, an automobile parts supplier. She graduated from Holland Christian High School and Calvin College, earning a degree in business economics. It was while she attended college that Secretary DeVos became involved in politics. Secretary DeVos is married to Richard “Dick” DeVos, Jr., who is an heir to the multi-billion-dollar company, Amway. The couple has four grown children, Rick, Elissa, Andrea and Ryan.


Education Background


One of the reasons Secretary DeVos was not a popular choice for the Education position was her lack of connection to public schools and colleges. She and her husband were both educated in private school as were all four of their children. For more than 30 years, Secretary DeVos fought for more tax dollars for charter schools over public schools. Charter schools are operated by private groups and have different structures than public schools, but receive tax payer money. She also pushed for the use of public funds for vouchers that would pay for private school tuition.


Confirmation Hearings


During her confirmation hearings for the Secretary of Education position, Secretary DeVos was vague in her answers to questions about education policy as well as federal law. What she says was a joke, became late-night comic material when she said some school officials carry guns to protect against grizzly bears. She was barely confirmed with a 51 to 50 vote, making history when Vice-President Mike Pence had to cast the deciding vote, the first time for the approval of a cabinet officer. Both opponents and supporters say that, since she has been in Washington, Secretary DeVos shows a tenacity that was unexpected to all but her closest friends. Many say that opposition emboldens her and that she does not back down from a fight.


Public vs. Charter Schools


Opponents say that Ms. DeVos intends to undermine public education by focusing on charter schools, but others say that she is simply pushing Americans to recognize that even public schools that are considered high-quality are not performing as well as those in other developed countries. They say that she wants to bring attention to the fact that American’s need to expect more from their schools and to stop believing that all students learn in the same way. She points to the fact that choice programs grew significantly over the past year, indicating that people are recognizing that public schools are not succeeding.


President Trump


When President Trump rescinded a policy that allowed transgender students to use the restroom that matched their identity in schools, Secretary DeVos met with gay and transgender Education Department staff to warn them. The Secretary resisted the President’s decision, according to insiders, but did not indicate there was any disagreement when the announcement was made. In her home state, she was known as someone who was relentless and effective in her political battles, so people close to her say it is a mistake to consider her meek or a doormat.


It still remains to be seen how effective Secretary DeVos’ policies will be in Education, but insiders say that she is intelligent, has a strong understanding of what her role is and that she will fight strongly for what she believes. Learn more: