Philanthropy is a business if you go about it the right way, and it’s a business that Betsy DeVos has devoted her life to. As one of the signatories of the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, she and her husband, entrepreneur Dick DeVos, gave away well over $130 million between 1989 and 2015. The cause that’s closest to Mrs. DeVos’s heart is educational choice. In recognition of her commitment to the educational-choice movement, President Donald Trump named Betsy DeVos to the Cabinet position of Secretary of Education in 2017.
What Is Educational Choice?
Educational choice is a philosophy that enables parents to have a greater degree of choice over the schools their children attend than the public school system currently allows; moreover, the educational choice movement advocates the use of public funds to support these parents’ choices. After all, these funds are ultimately derived from taxes, so why shouldn’t parents exercise some control over the types of institutions their tax dollars fund?
In 2013, 17 states as well as the District of Columbia supported publicly funded, private-choice schools that provided education for more than 250,000 students. That number has grown since then. Funding was provided for these schools in the form of vouchers, tax credits and educational savings accounts as well as through allocations from funding earmarked for public schools.
Betsy DeVos’s Journey
Betsy DeVos first became aware of the educational choice movement when she and her husband, entrepreneur Dick DeVos, decided to home-school two of their four children. Their wealth gave them access to the resources they needed, but they couldn’t help noticing that the other home-schoolers with whom they interacted didn’t have anything resembling their options.
Consider Potter’s House Christian School, a private school in Grand Rapids, Michigan that has been providing quality education for more than three decades. Many of Potter’s House’s students come from low-income families, and when Mrs. DeVos visited the school, she could see how hard those parents were struggling to keep their children at the school.
Mrs. DeVos and her husband made a choice to begin picking up tuition costs for individual students attending the Potter’s House. She realized, however, that this generosity did little to address more systemic issues associated with education failures and began becoming involved at a more significant level.
In 1993, Betsy and Dick DeVos became deeply involved in the campaign to pass Michigan’s first charter school. Mrs. DeVos also began to devote time and energy to a political action committee called the Great Lakes Education Project, which was committed to the expansion of charter schools throughout the Wolverine State.
Visit www.betsydevos.com to learn more.