U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos surprises those who don’t know her.
She is polite and doesn’t participate in public controversy. DeVos doesn’t respond to her critics and rarely gives interviews. However, those in her home state of Michigan say she is a force to be feared.
“In Michigan politics, she instilled fear in a lot of people, and it’s not just because she’s a billionaire,” Mike Cox, a Republican and former state attorney general, said in a interview with the New York Times. “I found Betsy to be very determined, steely, when she sets her mind on a goal.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a DeVos critic, said DeVos is highly likable and talks in plain language, both which allows political opponents to let their guards down.
“There is a real tendency to underestimate her,” Weingarten said.
DeVos knows the ropes of business high society and political movers and shakers. She was born in 1958 into a conservative, wealthy family in Holland, Mich. Her father, Edgar Prince, built his auto parts company into a billion-dollar business. He was a strong supporter of Christian conservative causes, a practice instilled in his daughter.
Betsy DeVos was raised in the Christian Reformed Church and attended the Christian school Calvin College in Grand Rapids. She married Dick DeVos, also a from a power-broker Michigan family. Dick Devos’ family co-founded the multi-level marketing company Amway.
The DeVoses have become a power couple with both actively involved in Michigan politics and business. Dick DeVos ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor and was instrumental in building up downtown Grand Rapids. He was recently appointed to the highest civilian panel in the federal government that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Betsy DeVos has built her own portfolio in her advocacy for charter schools. She supported her husband in creating the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a public high school with a concentration on flight. The couple also formed an advocacy group that successfully lobbied against the created of a Michigan commission making all decisions regarding opening schools, including charter schools.
DeVos spent time in the early days of her secretary appointment visiting schools, including public, private and charter schools. One of those trips was to Florida where she visited charter schools opened by celebrity Pitbull, an unusual combination provoking media interest.
The couple is considered mega-donors to Republican Party interests, but also contribute significantly to a number of causes beyond politics. Their charitable giving totals $139 million over their lifetimes.
Most donations goes to educational and cultural causes, giving millions to charter schools, Christian education, universities and the arts. They also donated to Spectrum Health Foundation to recruit a top doctor and researcher for childhood cancers to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The move resulted in a “remarkable” survival rate for Michigan children, according to Betsy DeVos. Learn more: http://www.betsydevos.com/policy-involvement/