Even when she was a teenager, Betsy DeVos was interested in making the world a better place. As a student at Calvin College, a private Christian liberal arts institution of higher learning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, young Elisabeth Prince was an enthusiastic participant in campus politics. Today, as the 11th United States Secretary of Education, Mrs. DeVos is an outspoken proponent of charter schools, voucher programs and educational choice.
Educational choice is the process by which public education funds are made available to parents so that their sons and daughters can participate in whatever educational process best meets their needs, whether that educational institution is a public school, a private school, a charter school, the home or some other learning environment. As Mrs. DeVos sees it, in many cases, traditional public schools have been unsuccessful in providing quality education, and she believes that all parents should have the right to explore other options.
When Betsy DeVos’s own children were school-age, she and her husband became involved with Potter’s House Christian School. Mrs. DeVos knew that her family was blessed with the financial resources to send their children to any school they pleased, and she became increasingly disturbed by the fact that that option was not available to lower-income parents.
In the 1990s, the DeVos family launched the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Among many other philanthropic activities, the Foundation awarded scholarships to low-income parents so that those parents could get to choose where their children would go to school. Mrs. DeVos was very proud of the Foundation’s work, but she knew it wasn’t enough.
Taking the Educational Choice Movement National
In the 1990s, Mrs. DeVos was drafted to sit on the boards of two national charities, which allowed her to take her support for educational choice national. Children First America and the American Education Reform Council were both actively involved in the battle to mainstream educational choice through school vouchers and tax credits.
In 2010, Mrs. DeVos became one of the founders of the American Federation for Children. This organization works nationwide to help ensure that every child has equal access to the type of quality education that their parents want for them.
Where Are Educational Reforms Taking Place?
Mrs. DeVos sees Florida, Louisiana and Indiana as the states where the educational reform movement has been most successful. These are the states in which candidates supporting educational choice have been elected. Although traditionally, it has been Republicans who’ve been most supportive of educational choice, Mrs. DeVos sees the open school movement as a bipartisan issue. She is heartened by the fact that there has been an increasing amount of Democratic support for educational choice, particularly at the state legislative level.
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