It was in the 1980’s that Betsy DeVos became involved in the school choice movement. When she and her husband, Dick DeVos, had small children they had the opportunity to visit Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This school was very successfully educating children including the many children that attended the school who came from low-income families. It was providing an excellent education in comparison to the public schools in Grand Rapids which were failing their students.
Betsy and Dick kept going back to this school to learn more about it. Over time they started sponsoring the cost of individual children attending the school in order to reduce the financial burden on their parent’s low incomes. Today, 30 years later, they continue to philanthropically support students at Potter’s House Christian School.
This school resulted in both of the DeVos’ realizing that private educational choices were providing a better education than public schools across the United States. One of the biggest tragedies in America today is that a child’s zip code largely determines what kind of education they will receive. Kids in rich zip codes generally receive a quality education while those in poor zip codes have underfunded and underperforming schools holding them back.
The school reform movement that Betsy DeVos has supported over the years is actively campaigning for charter schools and other private options in states across the United States. She believes with tax reforms such as tax credits, education savings accounts, and vouchers parents will be given a much better choice in where to send their children to school. This will also result in children receiving a much better education, especially in low-income zip codes.
Having a choice in which school to attend is increasingly a bi-partisan issue. While the idea was first supported by Republican’s there are now Democratic politicians who also support charter and private schools. She cites Florida as a state where there was strong Democratic support of a school choice bill that was then signed by the Republican Governer of the state.
Betsy DeVos is now the U.S. Secretary of Education after having been confirmed by the US Senate for this position in February 2017. She has vowed to be a strong voice advocating for the rights of parents and students to attend the school of their choice. She has also stated that the educational outcome a child receives should no longer be tied to the zip code they live in.
Before her confirmation, Betsy DeVos volunteered her time to a number of educational nonprofit organizations. She was also the Chairman of The Windquest Group, a private equity company she co-founded along with her husband Dick. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read her interview with Philanthropy Table