Those who know Betsy Prince DeVos acknowledge that while she has the manners of a lady, she has a steel core and the tenacity of a street fighter. Growing up in Holland, Michigan, she worked in the auto parts company founded by her father, Edgar Prince. Her husband, Dick DeVos, is from the family that founded Amway.
At Calvin College, the Elisabeth “Betsy” Prince become involved with campus politics and has remained politically active ever since, leading campaigns, party organizations, and political action committees. For six years she served as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.
Those who have watched Mrs. DeVos grow as former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and a major Republican donor, and as an advocate of charter schools and school vouchers, caution that her genteel politeness masks the ferocity of a warrior. She has a well-earned reputation of a fighter, relentlessly driven, working to behind the scenes to accomplish her goals. She has a lifelong habit of looking for innovative solutions to complex problems.
Former Michigan state attorney general said: “I found Betsy to be very determined… when she sets her mind on a goal.” For more than thirty years, Betsy worked to steer tax dollars away from public schools and toward charter schools, operated by private groups outside of the K-12 systems, but relying on public funds. During this time, she also worked in favor of school vouchers to allow parents to pay tuition at private and parochial schools.
Detroit officials backed legislation to regulate new charter schools and close underperforming ones. But the Great Lakes Education Project, created by Betsy DeVos, defeated the bill, declaring that the Detroit public school system should be closed.
During her confirmation hearings as US Secretary of Education, Betsy declared that the great majority of students in the US would continue in public education, but that American schools considered above average still underperform those of other nations. She was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaker.
Betsy DeVos is willing to work with her critics to improve public education. As the new Secretary of Education, she and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, visited public schools together.
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