Friends of Betsy Devos were surprised to see her take a role in politics. While she always cared about social change, she and her husband Dick had been content to use their money and influence from the outside. Politics, Betsy used to say, was a dirty game that she wanted no part of. Eventually, though, Devos came to realize that if she was going to accomplish the change she wanted, it would have to be through government. When the opportunity to serve as Trump’s Secretary of Education came about, she thought long and hard about whether the timing was right. She jumped into the ring because the position afforded her the opportunity to help families.
It’s no surprise that Devos’s position in government centers on education. For decades, this has been more than just her pet project. Dick Devos spread his money around to various ventures and in various interests. For Betsy, though, it has always been about giving parents the opportunity to help their children.
Back in Michigan, where the Devoses have poured money into cities like Grand Rapids, Betsy once struggled to find a good school for her children. Her story was fairly typical. She was a mom looking for the right fit. She had plenty of resources at her disposal, and this made her search much easier than the search process of those around her. At the end of the day, she saw the public schools in Michigan as failing to live up to the high standards she demanded. She also saw other parents struggle with the same conundrum. Though those parents didn’t have the money to just put their kids in a private school, they wanted something more than just the bad public school in their town.
Devos took this experience with her as she began to think about school choice. It was a question of fairness for her. Why should her kids get to have a better education just because she happens to have more money than the mom working two jobs? Why should a person’s place of birth or their parents’ wealth determine something that has such a huge impact on their future ability to succeed? As these questions vexed Devos, she figured out the importance of the school choice movement. Vouchers and charter schools popped up as legitimate options around the country, in part because Devos has dedicated her time to it.
Now that she’s in office, she’s continuing to bang the drum for school choice. She has been all over the country speaking to parents. She has heard form them that when their communities have instituted school choice, the children have flourished. This has kept Devos going even though throwing around her weight in the political world has never been her aim. Though she’s not totally comfortable getting her hands dirty in Washington, she now recognizes that it’s the only way to truly get things done. The longer she works as Trump’s Secretary of Education, the more she believes in the power of education to secure better results for these kids.
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