Published: | Updated: June 28, 2018

Betsy DeVos, U.S. Education Secretary: Background and Achievements

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, waits on stage to be introduced before addressing staff at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 8, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, waits on stage to be introduced before addressing staff at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 8, 2017.
—T.J. Kirkpatrick for Education Week

Biographical Information: Devos was born Jan. 8, 1958, in Grand Rapids, Mich. She graduated from Holland Christian High School in Holland, Mich., and received her bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Before becoming secretary, DeVos was a Michigan philanthropist focusing on school choice and a GOP political donor. She successfully pushed for the passage of the Wolverine State's charter school law in 1993 and has voiced her commitment to improving U.S. education through increased school choice. DeVos faced stiff opposition after her nomination by President Donald Trump and was confirmed by a 51-50 vote in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 7, 2017, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.

Served Under: President Donald J. Trump

Dates of Tenure: 2017-Present

Fun Fact: DeVos’ mother was a public school teacher for a few years.

Major Initiatives and Highlights of Tenure:
• DeVos has continued to push her agenda for school choice during her tenure as secretary.
• Early on in her term, DeVos got pushback for her team’s approach to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which some critics saw as meddling in states’ newfound autonomy under ESSA.
• In response to pair of executive orders from President Donald Trump, the Education Department under DeVos began taking aim at red-tape and regulations.

Archives of Note:

United States Secretaries of Education

View our education secretary pages for a deep look at each secretary's tenure, challenges, and accomplishments. Read more.

Who is Betsy DeVos? (Facebook Live)
Politics reporter Andrew Ujifusa and editor Mark Bomster produced this Facebook Live video hours after the announcement. They talk about her record on education and what to expect from her as the nation's top education official. (Nov. 23, 2016)

Senate Confirms Betsy DeVos as Ed. Secretary, Amid Unprecedented Pushback
Billionaire school choice advocate Betsy DeVos squeaked across the finish line to win Senate confirmation as President Donald Trump's secretary of education, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. (Feb. 7, 2017)

Reactions to Betsy DeVos' Confirmation as Ed. Secretary Range From Joy to Anger
School choice supporters are really happy. Civil rights organizations and teachers' unions not so much. Check out what organizations across the political spectrum said after DeVos' confirmation. (Feb. 7, 2017)

Betsy DeVos to School Leaders: 'I Support Great Public Schools' (Video)
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed urban school leaders at the Council of the Great City Schools’ annual legislative and policy conference in Washington. (Mar. 12, 2017)

Trump Ed. Dept. Has Yet to Hit the Accelerator
Nearly two months into the new administration and with ESSA deadlines looming, the agency has yet to fill key positions and faces steep cuts in its proposed budget. (Mar. 17, 2017)

DeVos' Challenge: Tuning Her Message as New Education Secretary
After a rough start on the communications front, Betsy DeVos faces a steep climb to get her points across to the public while settling into her policy role. (Mar. 21, 2017)

Rifts Remain as Betsy DeVos, Randi Weingarten Tour Ohio District
The education secretary and the American Federation of Teachers president agree the Van Wert district is great, but don’t see eye-to-eye on vouchers, the budget, and more. (Apr. 20, 2017)

What Has Betsy DeVos Actually Done After Nearly Six Months in Office?
The U.S. secretary of education is finding little traction on school choice, key personnel, or in using her megaphone to broaden the administration's K-12 audience. (July 25, 2017)

Q&A: One-on-One with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is not giving up on a school choice initiative, she said in a wide-ranging Education Week interview. (Sept 17, 2017)

Betsy DeVos: A One-Year Progress Report
The U.S. secretary of education faced a steep learning curve when she took office last year. See how her tenure is shaping up in key issue areas. (February 8, 2018)

Betsy DeVos Still Challenged in Delivering Policy Message
The past two weeks show the education secretary is still a prime target of vitriol from her critics and sometimes her own worst enemy in making her case in the public arena. (March 20, 2018)

DeVos Deflects Criticism at Capitol Hill Hearing
House Democrats and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sparred over civil rights and ESSA, but largely avoided controversial questions about school safety in the aftermath of the Texas high school shooting last week. (May 29, 2018)

Commentary by Betsy DeVos

Tolerating Low Expectations for Children With Disabilities Must End
When it comes to educating students with special needs, "the minimum" is not an option, writes U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (December 8, 2017)

Betsy DeVos: How We Can Catch Up to Other Countries in Education
Following a trip to Europe, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reflects on how we should restructure education at home. (June 28, 2018)

Additional Resources:


How to Cite This Article

Education Week Library. (2017, August 18). Betsy DeVos, Eleventh U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/secretary-of-education/betsy-devos.html


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