Betsy DeVos

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Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos 2005 crop.jpg
United States Secretary of Education
Assumed office
President Donald Trump
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
In office
Preceded by Gerald Hills
Succeeded by Saul Anuzis
In office
Preceded by Susy Avery
Succeeded by Gerald Hills
Personal details
Born Elisabeth Prince
(1958-01-08) January 8, 1958 (age 59)
Holland, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dick DeVos
Children Andrea DeVos, Elisabeth DeVos, Richard DeVos III, Ryan DeVos
Relatives Edgar Prince (father)
Erik Prince (brother)
Richard DeVos (father-in-law)
Education Calvin College (BA)
Religion Reformed
  • Pending Senate Confirmation

Elisabeth "Betsy" DeVos (née Prince; born January 8, 1958) is an American businesswoman, philanthropist, and education activist.[1] DeVos is a member of the Republican Party known for her advocacy of school choice, voucher programs, and ties to the Reformed Christian community.[2][3][4] She was Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan from 1992 to 1997 and served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000, with reelection to the post in 2003. DeVos has been a defender of the Detroit charter school system[5][6] and she is a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She has served as chairwoman of the board of Alliance for School Choice and heads the All Children Matter PAC. DeVos is married to Dick DeVos and is the daughter-in-law of billionaire Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway.[7][8] Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA, later renamed Academi.[9][10] DeVos is the daughter of Edgar Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation.[11][12]

On November 23, 2016, President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education in his forthcoming administration.[13]

Early life and education

DeVos was born Elisabeth Prince on January 8, 1958.[7][14] She grew up in Holland, Michigan, the daughter of Elsa (Zwiep) Prince (later, Broekhuizen) and Edgar Prince, a billionaire industrialist[15][16] of Dutch ancestry. Edgar was the founder of Prince Corporation, an automobile parts supplier based in Holland, Michigan, which at one time employed almost one-quarter of the town's population.[11][15]


DeVos was educated at the Holland Christian High School, a private school located in her home town of Holland, Michigan.[17] She graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science, and was "involved with campus politics," according to Philanthropy magazine.[18]

Religious upbringing

DeVos grew up as a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.[19] She has been a member and elder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids.[20][21] Former Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, with whom DeVos served on a committee, said she is influenced by neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper.[2]

Political activity

Michigan Republican Party

Since 1982, DeVos has participated in the Michigan Republican Party. She served as a local precinct delegate. She was a Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan between 1992 and 1997,[22] and served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000.[23][24] In 2004, the Lansing State Journal described DeVos as "a political pit bull for most of [Gov. Jennifer] Granholm's 16 months in office", and said that if DeVos wasn't Granholm's "worst nightmare," she was "certainly her most persistent." Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics and a former Republican state senator, called DeVos "a good behind-the-scenes organizer and a good fund raiser" as well as "a true believer in core Republican issues that leave nobody in doubt on where she stands."[25] DeVos resigned the position in 2000. She said in 2000, "It is clear I have never been a rubber stamp... I have been a fighter for the grassroots, and following is admittedly not my strong suit."[26] In 2003, DeVos ran again for party chairman and was elected to the post without opposition.[26]

Political fundraising

DeVos personally raised more than $150,000 for the 2004 Bush re-election campaign,[27] and hosted a Republican fundraiser at her home in October 2008 that was headlined by President George W. Bush.[28] During the Bush Administration she spent two years as the finance chairperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and worked closely with the Administration on "various projects."[29][dead link] The DeVos family has been active in Republican politics for decades, particularly as donors to candidates and the party, giving more than $17 million to political candidates and committees since 1989.[30][31]

2016 U.S. presidential election

During the Republican Party presidential primaries for the 2016 election, DeVos initially donated to Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina before eventually supporting Marco Rubio.[13] In March 2016, DeVos described Donald Trump as an "interloper" and said that he "does not represent the Republican Party".[13]

Nomination for Secretary of Education

On November 23, 2016, it was announced that DeVos was President-elect Trump's choice to be the next United States Secretary of Education. Upon her nomination, DeVos said "I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable."[13] DeVos's nomination was generally criticized by teachers unions and praised by supporters of school choice.[32]

Jeb Bush called DeVos an "outstanding pick."[33] U.S. Senator Ben Sasse said DeVos "has made a career out of standing up to powerful and connected special interests on behalf of poor kids who are too often forgotten by Washington." Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called DeVos "the most ideological, anti-public education nominee" since the position became a cabinet position.[33] The Washington Post noted that "Trump's embrace of DeVos shows a willingness to look outside his circle of loyalists".[13]

Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker questioned the efficacy of Michigan's charter school system, which DeVos has supported.[17] Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, wrote that DeVos is "someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them."[34] In an opinion editorial entitled "The case for Betsy DeVos", The Chicago Tribune wrote that "DeVos has helped lead the national battle to expand education opportunities for children."[35]

Confirmation hearing

The confirmation hearing for DeVos was initially scheduled for January 10, 2017, but was delayed for one week after the Office of Government Ethics requested more time to review her financial disclosures.[36][37]

Business career

DeVos is chairwoman of the Windquest Group, a privately held operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. DeVos and her husband founded it in 1989.[18]

In 2011, DeVos and her husband, via the Windquest Group, invested in Energetx Composites, a wind energy company. They were drawn to it because it aligned with Windquest Group's clean energy focus. Windquest also invested in another Western Michigan firm, Cascade Engineering, to create a water filter used to help clean water efforts.[38][39][40]

DeVos and her husband were producers for a Broadway run of the stage play Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, in 2012. Based on the life of the famous evangelist and featuring a book and lyrics written by Kathie Lee Gifford, the show ran for three weeks, closing in December 2012.[41]

Non-profit work

Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation was launched in 1989.[42][43] The foundation's giving, according to its website, is motivated by faith, and "is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas", namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership.[44] In 2015, the DeVos Foundation made $11.6 million in charitable contributions, bringing the couple's lifetime charitable giving to $139 million.[45] Forbes ranked the DeVos family #24 on its 2015 list of America's top givers.[46]


Kennedy Center

DeVos was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2004, and served until 2010. While she was on the board, she and her husband funded a center to teach arts managers and boards of directors how to fundraise and manage their cultural institutions.[47][48] The couple donated $22.5 million in 2010 to continue the endeavor, which was given in the name the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.[47][48]

After the announcement of the DeVoses' gift to the Kennedy Center, DeVos explained that she had been persuaded by Kennedy Center official Michael Kaiser's observation that millions of dollars are invested "in the arts, and training artists," but not in "training the leaders who hire the artists and run the organizations." The DeVoses' gift was intended to remedy this oversight. "We want to help develop human capital and leverage that capital to the greatest extent possible," she said, describing Kaiser's "practice and approach" as "practical, realistic and creative."[48] The DeVoses' gift, part of which would be spent on arts groups in Michigan that had been hit hard by the recession, was the largest private donation in the Kennedy Center's history.[49]


In 2009, DeVos and her family founded ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[50]

Education activism

School choice

DeVos believes education in the United States should be opened up to for-profit charter schools, and she has stated that education is "a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end."[51] DeVos believes that opening up the education market will offer parents increased "choice," a view that critics call a drive to privatize the American public education system.[51]

School vouchers

DeVos is known as a "a fierce proponent of school vouchers" that would allow students to attend private schools with public funding.[52] According to The New York Times, it "is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos."[33]

DeVos served as chairwoman of the board of Alliance for School Choice.[53] She heads the All Children Matter PAC which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes.[54] Over the years, DeVos and her husband have provided millions in funding for the organization. In 2008, All Children Matter was fined a total of $5.2 million after the Ohio Elections Commission brought a case for campaign spending violations.[55] The fine was never paid.[56][57]

Her other activities on behalf of public-school reform have included membership on the boards of directors of the Advocates for School Choice, the American Education Reform Council, and the Education Freedom Fund.[58] She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children, and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP).[59]

DeVos is Chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs." It is affiliated with the Alliance for School Choice.[60]

During the 1990s, she served on the boards of Children First America and the American Education Reform Council, which sought to expand school choice through vouchers and tax credits. She and her husband worked for the successful passage of Michigan's first charter-school bill in 1993,[citation needed] and for the unsuccessful effort in 2000 to amend Michigan's constitution to allow tax-credit scholarships or vouchers. In response to that defeat, DeVos started a PAC, the Great Lakes Education Project, which championed charter schools. DeVos's husband and John Walton then founded All Children Matter, a political organization, which she chaired. [61]

Detroit charter school system

DeVos has been a defender of the Detroit charter school system. Douglas N. Harris, professor of Economics at Tulane University, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that DeVos was partly responsible for "what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Detroit had the lowest reading and mathematics scores "by far" over any city participating in the evaluation. She designed a system with no oversight, said Harris, and where schools that do poorly can still continue to enroll students.[62]

On the other hand, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that: "the typical student in Michigan charter schools gains more learning in a year than his TPS [traditional public schools] counterparts, amounting to about two months of additional gains in reading and math. These positive patterns are even more pronounced in Detroit, where historically student academic performance has been poor."[63] Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review said that "some 47 percent of charter schools in Detroit significantly outperform[ed] traditional public schools in reading." Defending DeVos' record in Michigan, Jay P. Greene, professor of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas argued Harris' New York Times article misled readers on the evidence and "falsely claimed that Detroit has failed to close failing charter schools", noting that Detroit has closed more charters than Louisiana, a state Harris cites as a model for charter school legislation.[64]

Grading system

DeVos and Joel Klein said in a May 2013 op-ed that residents of Maine "are now given information on school performance using easy-to-understand report cards with the same A, B, C, D and F designations used in student grades." This system, they argued, "truly motivates parents and the community to get involved by simply taking information that education officials have had for years and presenting it in a way that is more easily understood."[65]

Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholars for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Scholarship

The DeVoses have also established an annual scholarship, called the Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholars for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Scholarship, which is awarded to students earning a BBA or combined BBA/MBA at Northwood University.[66]

Foundation for Excellence in Education

DeVos is a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd),[67] a think tank founded by Jeb Bush whose stated goal is to "build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential."[68]

Personal life


The DeVos family is one of Michigan's wealthiest.[30] Betsy DeVos' husband, Richard Marvin "Dick" DeVos Jr., is a multi-billionaire heir to the Amway direct sales fortune and a major donor to conservative political campaigns and social causes.[69][70][71] He ran Amway's parent company, Alticor, from 1993 to 2002, and was the 2006 Republican nominee for Governor of Michigan.[15][72] Richard Marvin DeVos Sr., DeVos' father-in-law, the owner of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team, co-founded Amway and was listed by Forbes in 2016 as having a net worth of $5.1 billion, making him America's 88th wealthiest individual.[30][73] DeVos' brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA, a private military services contractor.[15][31][74][75] Betsy and Dick Devos have four grown children, two daughters and two sons: Rick, Elissa, Andrea, and Ryan.[50] Rick works for the Windquest Group as a consultant on urban development.[76]


The DeVos family owns residences in Grand Rapids and Ada in Michigan;[50] Windsor, a community in Vero Beach, Florida;[77][78] and on Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan.[79]

See also


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  2. ^ a b Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (November 23, 2016). Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, is a billionaire with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  3. ^ Wermund, Benjamin (12/2/2016 6:42 PM EST). Trump's education pick says reform can 'advance God's Kingdom'. Politico. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  4. ^ Katherine Stewart (December 13th, 2016), Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools, The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  5. ^ Ponnuru, Ramesh (November 28, 2016). "DeVos and Detroit's Charter Schools". National Review. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
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  8. ^ Chase Peterson-Withorn (November 23rd 2016),Trump Picks Betsy DeVos, Daughter-In-Law Of Billionaire Amway Cofounder, For Education Secretary Forbes, Retrieved 20th December 2016.
  9. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (2008). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Arm. Nation Books. ASIN B0097CYTYA. 
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  14. ^ Congressional Staff Directory, Fall 2006: 110th Congress, First Session, p. 903
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  66. ^ "Six Future Northwood University Students Receive the Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholarship for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship". Northwood University. April 22, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
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Further reading

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Susy Avery
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Gerald Hills
Preceded by
Gerald Hills
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Saul Anuzis