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Meet the boss

The recent announcement by President-elect Donald Trump that he had picked Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, the Grand Rapids philanthropist known for her passionate school choice advocacy in Michigan, as the next U.S. Secretary of Education, has drawn the ire of some legislators and educators in Oakland County and across the nation. Considered one of the country’s political mega-donors, DeVos and her family – she’s the wife of Dick DeVos and daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway – have given millions to lawmakers and the state Republican Party to influence education-related legislation in an effort to push for the expansion of charter schools. Critics of DeVos have said such schools overall have failed to deliver on improvements in education, instead serving to weaken enrollment and finances of public school districts. In December, Michigan State School Board President John Austin said efforts by DeVos to expand school choice were destroying learning outcomes, and that the family is a “principal agent of that.” The Detroit Free Press noted the family’s practice of donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to specific state legislature races to oppose conservatives who aren’t fully onboard with the family’s political agenda. A recent column in the New York Times by author Katherine Stewart, who has written about public education and religious fundamentalism in America, said the DeVos family has for decades funded the religious right through a network of family foundations. And recently chimed in with stats showing less than impressive results from the charter school movement backed by the DeVos family. One Oakland County lawmaker said, “The damage she’s caused in Michigan – we’re all going to pay for it. They’re bankrupting the schools and leaving the state on the hook. The GLEP (DeVos’ pet passion – Great Lakes Education Project) schools are the worst.”


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