Betsy DeVos Has Always Been a Fierce Political Fighter

Although she may appear to agree publicly with everything President Donal Trump says, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is anything but a pushover. Early in 2017, DeVos sparred with Trump behind the scenes, asking him not to rescind the federal policy allowing public school students to use the bathroom that reflected their gender identity. DeVos didn’t win that fight, but her next step was to speak with gay and transgender employees at the Department of Education to inform regarding what was about to happen. When the President finally made the announcement, DeVos kept up a united front, even going so far as to say that the policy was representative of the Obama Administration’s overreach.


Those who knew DeVos in her home state of Michigan say that she would be anything but a meek team player. DeVos, who has been a fierce advocate of charter schools and school vouchers was active in the state’s Republican Party where she earned a reputation as a relentless fighter for what she believed in. Determined and steely are typical of the words used to describe her. Even her opponents in Michigan called her pragmatic and generous, almost a polar opposite to her controversial Washington persona.


Born Betsy Prince in 1958, she grew up in a wealthy conservative household in Holland, MI, and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids before marrying Dick DeVos, whose family founded Amway. The couple has four grown children. The area where DeVos grew up has strong ties to the Netherlands and the Christian Reformed Church, both of which helped form her views promoting making funds available neutrally for religious and secular schools alike.


DeVos’ views are considered extreme by some school choice advocates, with some even going so far as to say that she has caused harm to public education and is considered a divisive figure in the school choice movement.


Also controversial is the amount of money that Betsy and Dick DeVos have donated to Republican political campaigns. The couple donated at least $5.3 million to political campaigns over a five-year period from 2011 to 2016. That figure, however, is more than eclipsed by their charitable contributions, most of which have come through the Dick and Besty DeVos Family Foundation. DeVos and her husband have donated $139 to charitable causes over their lifetimes, with $11.6 million coming solely in 2015.


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