Who is Betsy DeVos, and why does she matter?

Betsy DeVos is now the Secretary of Education. Photo Courtesy of FoxNews.

Peyton Powell
Staff Writer

With a new President comes a whole new administration. A new hope apart of President Trump’s Cabinet is Betsy DeVos, which he nominated after he won the presidency. Recently, DeVos was voted to the cabinet, marking the first time where the Vice President had to perform a tiebreaker on a cabinet vote.

Betsy DeVos was born in 1958, as Elisabeth Prince, to parents of the name Elsa and Edgar Prince in Holland Michigan. Edgar Prince was a billionaire industrialist and a founder of the prince corporation, an automobile parts supplier. She attended Holland Christian High School, and then Calvin College, where she earned a degree in business administration and political science. DeVos is married to Richard DeVos Jr., a multi billionaire who is the heir to the Amway Fortune and runs the starting company, Alticor, and with whom she has four grown children.  Her husband Richard is also a major contributor to conservative political campaigns and social causes.

The nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, started her political career in 1982; when she served as a local delegate for the Republican party in her home state of Michigan. She then went on to become Michigan’s National Committeewoman from 1992 to 1997. She also served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000. Once resigning from her position as chairwoman in 2000, she then ran for that same position again in 2003, where she won without opposition.

On November 23rd, 2016 Betsy DeVos was nominated by the new president elect Donald Trump to be his Secretary of Education. “I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” stated DeVos following her nomination. In the same statement, she said that “The status quo in education is not acceptable,” which lead people to wonder what she has planned. After her nomination, an outpouring of support came from fellow politicians saying that she was the right pick, with Jeb Bush and others calling her an “outstanding pick.” Her nomination came with criticism from teacher unions and others who also felt she wasn’t the right choice.

As the now hopeful for Secretary of Education, DeVos made it known that she is an advocate for great public schools. During her confirmation hearing she was asked numerous questions about how she will change education in run as secretary, and what her beliefs are about the schooling system. DeVos has made it known that she is a big supporter of the tuition voucher program, which is money granted to families to offset the costs of their child’s non-public schooling. When asked by Senator Patty Murray if she can commit to not privatizing public schools and cut money for public education, she didn’t give a yes or no answer, but said “I look forward to working with you to talk about how to address the needs of all parents and students.” Also during the three-and-a-half-hour confirmation, she was asked a question about the Special Education Law, which she said that each state government will differently handle it. She later retracted her statement by saying that she may have confused what they were saying after follow up questions danced around the fact that she didn’t know that IDEA was a federal law.

Equality is another big topic when it came to picking a new Secretary of Education. DeVos believes that families living in poverty should have the opportunity to have the same choices to educate their children as everyone else. One problem with equality is that her family donates to a foundation called, “Focus on the Family,” which is a conservative Christian group that believes in trying to change someone’s sexual orientation by sending them away to a camp. DeVos stated that she does not follow those beliefs, and that due does not associate her name with that foundation. Regarding schooling she thinks that, all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. She also agrees with President Trump’s plans to abolish the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act,  just like the Special Education Law, it should be left up to the local governments.

Here at Millersville, students may be wondering how her nomination will affect their schooling in the near future. After her nomination, she spent most of her time talking about what she will do specifically in the K-12 years and not in the college years, but she did say a little. When asked about how she will keep taxpayer dollars, in the form of Federal Aid, from universities who just spend it wastefully, she said that she will be “very vigilante.” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who originally asked the question, asked what exactly she had in mind, only getting a “I look forward to working with your response.” That was the same response that Senator Bernie Sanders got when he asked if she would help him make college more affordable for college age students. Betsy DeVos has openly stated that she does not agree with providing free college for students and said, “Nothing in life is truly free.” Just like the K-12 years, she hopes to make it fair for anyone; no matter what their background is, to be equal in schooling. There were no exact specifics on how she wishes to incorporate that into a college campus, but she does plan on making schooling and education equal to all.