Betsy DeVos seemed to have gotten on the wrong side last February when the Trump administration announced that it was rescinding the Obama-rule on transgender students in public schools. Before the official announcement, she had met with employees in the Department of Education and her aides had assured some that she had not supported the change. Publicly, however, she did not contradict the President’s decision and offered support for it at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The result was a sense that she had lost the behind-the-scenes debate on the issue.
Those who’ve known Betsy DeVos in Michigan, though, don’t discount her influence in the administration going forwards because of her formidable determination to achieve her goals in local and state politics. Instead, they chalk it up to having been caught off guard before she had fully learned the ropes of politics inside government. This had put her at a disadvantage compared to other players in the decision-making process like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The other difficulty that Betsy faces is the adversarial relationship she’s had in the past with public education. She and her husband had spent much of their political efforts advocating for charter school and school vouchers, which put them at odds with teachers’ unions and public education professionals at the Federal level.
One of first things Betsy did when she took office as Secretary of Education was to begin building bridges with public education professionals and teachers’ unions. She placed calls and arranged tours to see public schools around the country. This diplomatic work was key to building the alliances she would need to be an effective Secretary and to advocate the issues on her own terms. She also used the school tours as an opportunity to highlight successful charter schools like CARE Elementary School in Miami.
Betsy DeVos is certain to find her footing as Secretary of Education and have an active influence on Trump administration policies. While she lays the groundwork for support inside the Department of Education, she’ll also be building bridges between public education and her own positions on charter schools.
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An idea that began to receive traction in the Grand Rapids Michigan area in 1991 was the proposal to build an arena in the northern downtown area that was capable of hosting multiple sporting events.
This idea came about when Dick Devos was a thirty-something-year-old trailblazer that was well on his way to becoming the CEO of Amway Corporation that was owned by his family was against the idea from the beginning.
DeVos had seen the negative impact of large-scale sports arena construction to Detroit in the long run and wished to spare Grand Rapids from a similar fate. DeVos’ campaign against the sports complex was the catalyst for Grand Action, the company of area businessmen that would become responsible for a number of notable construction products in the Grand Rapids area.
Both heirs to considerable family fortunes Dick DeVos and wife Betsy have given much of their time and resources to affect change in both institutions and policies in the Michigan area. The DeVos have used the political influence they have gained through their generous GOP contributions to institute desired changes in the laws of the state of Michigan pertaining to work policies and state education.
Betsy DeVos made a successful push in to expand the scope of charter schools in Michigan. And in 2012 Dick was able to combat the long-standing tradition of union influence in the state and cause Michigan to become a right to work state.It would no longer be required to pay dues to a union to secure employment in Michigan.
The DeVos family influence is not limited to politics as their philanthropical contributions have also been well-chronicled. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation reportedly made contributions in excess of $138 million dollars in the 26 year period beginning in 1989 and ending in 2015 to further leadership programs, promote art and culture, benefit health services, support local churches, and fight for education reform in the state of Michigan.
Dick and Betsy DeVos also showed the trait of perseverance when a 2000 proposal backed by the power couple that would provide for tax-payer funding to subsidize the private educations of Michigan school children and six years later Dick DeVos suffered a failed state gubernatorial bid.
The DeVos family never wavered in their commitment to charter school advocacy and would expand their efforts nationwide. The total of states that, including the D.C. area that now has some form of the private school voucher system is 25.
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