For thirty years, Betsy DeVos has worked tirelessly on reforming school systems around the country. The main focus of her philanthropy and reform work has centered around Milton Friedman and the school choice model, which states that parents, not the government, not the zip code, but parents and their children are best able to determine how and where a child should be educated.
She is chairman of many groups and councils focused on expanding school choice at both the state and national level. Her own family foundation, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation organizes charitable donations to politicians and non-profit organizations who show commitment to her educational reform ideals. She is now the United States Secretary of Education, and plans to continue her work of expanding school choice to even more families across the country. Read more about her philanthropy at MLive.com.
Her involvement began when she and her husband, Dick, had school aged children and visited the Potter House Christian School in their home state of Michigan. There, they saw many fellow parents who wished nothing more than that their children would have a better education, but struggled to afford tuition. They decided to support the school and provide scholarships for the low-income students there.
The experienced changed Betsy DeVos’ perspective on education. She and her husband knew they had the time and resources to devote to changing the lives of more than just the students at a single school. In 1990 her husband was elected to the State Board of Education in Michigan, and she started a foundation to give scholarships to low-income parents so they could afford to send their students to whichever school they chose. Still, they recognized that structural changes were needed.
During the 1990s, Betsy DeVos served on the boards of two national charities working to change laws so they would provide vouchers and tax credits for private schooling children. They helped pass the Michigan Charter School bill in 1993. The Michigan program was so successful that the reformers created the American Federation for Children, which sought to duplicate the success through legal changes nationwide.
Since 2000, Betsy DeVos’ giving and philanthropy work has helped create school choice reforms in many other states, including Florida and Louisiana. In Louisiana she helped create a grass roots campaign for the new voucher program that was meant to bring kids out of failing schools in New Orleans and other cities. The Board of Education only gave families a one-week window, so they quickly arranged for a grassroots campaign to sign up as many parents as possible.
Over the last thirty years, Betsy DeVos has helped rearrange the school landscape for many parents by funding and volunteering for school choice measures around the country.