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Betsy DeVos: Five Things to Know About Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary

By Andrew Ujifusa — November 23, 2016 2 min read
There are sharply differing views on how much impact President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had on K-12 during his first year.
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President-elect Donald Trump has picked national school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, according to the Associated Press, after meeting with DeVos on Nov. 19. DeVos must still be confirmed by the Senate, but here are five things to know about the potential next leader of the U.S. Department of Education under Trump.

  1. DeVos is the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, an advocacy and research organization which advocates for a variety of forms of school choice including vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Fellow board members include Kevin Chavous, a former District of Columbia Council member, and Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor and the founder of The 74, an education news organization that says the “public education system is in crisis” in the U.S.
  2. In a Nov. 9 statement, DeVos said the election results for both the presidency and the U.S. Senate were a vindication of “bold school choice policies.” DeVos also said, “AFC has already begun to pave the way for bold school choice advancement on the federal level, and we look forward to working with the Trump-Pence Administration and Congress to ensure every child has equal access to a quality school of their parents’ choice.” However, DeVos also expressed reservations about Trump earlier this year, the MLive news site noted, when she said she was waiting to “hear something from our nominee to convince me that I should support him.”
  3. The organization reported that its preferred candidates won in 89 percent of the 112 electoral races it “invested in” across 12 states this year, and also said in a Nov. 14 statement: “While there’s been much discussion about the outcome of the election last week, there has been one undeniable victor: students, parents and school choice. Last Tuesday, voters elected pro-school choice leaders from both parties throughout the country.”
  4. She was also previously head of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000, and again from 2003 to 2005. She and her husband Dick DeVos also successfully pushed for the passage of Michigan’s charter school law in 1993.
  5. DeVos is also a “national adviser” for Kids Hope USA, which helps church members serve as mentors to at-risk children. The organization promotes a “One Child, One Hour, One Church, One School” model.

BONUS: DeVos’ husband, the son of the founder of Amway, helped finance a campaign to change the Michigan Constitution to allow tuition vouchers at private schools. And the couple also started the Education Freedom Fund, which provides scholarships to disadvantaged children.