By picking Betsy DeVos — a billionaire education philanthropist and activist — as his education secretary appointee, President-elect Donald Trump sent a strong message about what his education priority will be: school vouchers.
From The Atlantic,
According to Chalkbeat, DeVos’s family poured $1.45 million into an effort to prevent Michigan from adding oversight for charter schools. That effort ultimately failed. DeVos and her husband have been supporters of charter schools for decades and longtime opponents of regulation. And according to Chalkbeat, around 80 percent of the state’s charter schools are run by private companies. The lack of oversight has prompted concern from the Obama administration that some bad charters were being allowed to operate without improving or being forced to close. Civil-rights groups like the NAACP have also expressed concern that low-income children and children of color suffer when oversight is scaled back.
From The New Yorker,
The DeVos family belongs to the deeply conservative Dutch Reformed Church, and has pushed for years to breach the wall between church and state on education, among other issues. Betsy, who served as the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party in the late nineties and again in the early aughts, spent more than two million dollars of the family’s money on a failed school-vouchers referendum in 2000, which would have allowed Michigan residents to use public funds to pay for tuition at religious schools. The family then spent thirty-five million dollars, in 2006, on Dick DeVos’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Jennifer Granholm, then the Democratic governor of the state. After that campaign, the DeVos family doubled down on political contributions and support for conservative Christian causes. Members of the family, including Betsy and Dick DeVos, have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in several states. According to the Michigan L.G.B.T. publication PrideSource.com, Devos and her husband led the successful campaign to pass an anti-gay-marriage ballot referendum in the state in 2004, contributing more than two hundred thousand dollars to the effort. Dick Devos reportedly gave a hundred thousand dollars, in 2008, to an amendment that banned same-sex marriage in Florida. That year, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy Devos’s mother, was a major contributor to the effort to pass Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California.