On February 7, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education was confirmed. With her vote, which included the, came outrage from the left and an out pour of support from the right. Betsy DeVos is not a newcomer to politics, and she knows more about education that many people think.
Due to the media backlash DeVos received while awaiting her confirmation from the Senate, as well as her almost silent demeanor throughout the process, many people from DeVos’s hometown are having trouble coming to grips with how people see her. They want to know how Betsy DeVos is tweaking her image to take on the broken education system in America.
Born and raised in Michigan to a Christian family, she attended Calvin College before marrying Dick DeVos, whose family owns Amway. Mr. DeVos also ran a campaign for governor in 2006. The couple is known for their countless contributions to religious and political causes throughout the state. These contributions were the beginning of DeVos’s support for the use of vouchers, which allow students to use public funding to attend private schools.
Secretary DeVos is a longtime proponent of the voucher system and endorses, along with President Trump, the idea that religious and private schools should be able to receive the same funding as their public counterparts. According to the book,, which is popular among DeVos and those who agree with her, “religiously based schools of various types and public schools espousing a ‘neutral,’ consensual philosophy all sharing fully and equally in public funding.”
Many people see this as a violation of the separation of church and state, but the book declares, “It is on the basis of equal treatment—of making funds available neutrally for all types of religious and secular schools alike—that funding of religious schools and church-state separation are seen as being compatible.”
When she was first nominated to head the Department of Education, many from the opposition began to connect DeVos with the failing school system in Detroit, MI, simply because she was from the same state. “Betsy DeVos is not the cause of the dysfunction and the inability of DPS to educate kids,” said Gary Naeyaert, who was director of a charter-school advocacy group funded by DeVos.
In the Detroit school district, DPS, some children have to travel hours to get to a school to receive a decent education. Although DPS has instituted school choice, Naeyaert points out that the school choice program is not to blame for the destruction we see happening. In fact, the “eroding sense of community” is at fault for the failing system. Secretary DeVos is one to implement a close-knit community standard to avoid such a disaster.
Like any politician, DeVos knows it’s sometimes about ‘give and take.’ In order to get something you want, you have to be willing to negotiate the details. In Michigan, DeVos was a staunch opponent of regulating institutions who partake in a school choice program, but now that she is in Washington and sees a wider range of elements, she has changed her tune slightly.
DeVos entered her position against the wishes of half the senators who voted during her confirmation. She was seen as someone who wanted to completely change the American education system instead of working toward a solution for the many problems it faced. The narrative from Democrats was that DeVos was going to tear apart the system to a point of no return, just as long as kids could pray in school.
In Grand Rapids, where the DeVos family raised their children and became a driving force in education, there’s a completely different scenario to witness.
DeVos gave a lot of her time and money to Potter’s House, an ethnically diverse Christian institution in her hometown. The Potter’s House high school is located in the middle of a neighborhood with a high Latino population, next to small family homes and a busy street that runs through Grand Rapids. With the money and resources given to the school by the DeVos family, the students are able to have access to computers, textbooks and other things needed for a great education. DeVos has not given money and time to education because she wants to ruin it, but because she cares about the future of our children.
Prior to being confirmed, and even in some cases after, DeVos began by adopting an aggressive tone – something those who have known her for a very long time had never seen before. DeVos only accepted interviews from conservative outlets and spoke at conservative meetings. This set in motion the liberal precedent that she was not here to unite the government on education, but was instead going to dismantle what the previous administrations had worked to fulfill.
In Michigan, DeVos used her devout Christian beliefs to steer her decisions when it came to contributing to different education initiatives. That was the DeVos many expected to see as Secretary of Education, but they learned quickly that this wasn’t going to happen.
President Trump has backed DeVos’s plans for education for a long time, which is why he’s been so outspoken in favor of a new education bill.
During his speech to Congress, President Trump said, “I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”
DeVos knows that if she wants to get anything done in her new position, she has to adapt to her new surroundings. By changing her angle on education, Secretary DeVos is making a difference without causing a huge disruption in the system, and also without sacrificing her own ideals. She’s learning to meet in the middle, which is what any good politician must do.
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