In 2017, President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos to the 11th Office of the US Education Secretary. Like many appointments in this administration, it seemed like a controversial pick, but DeVos is one of the only originals left in the Trump administration. She has worked hard over the past few years despite constant opposition to her policies. In fact, one of the main issues that many have with DeVos is her educational choice campaign.
What is educational choice, and why does Betsy DeVos champion the cause?
Growing up, DeVos was raised in a Christian family with a mother who was a teacher. She attended a Christian school called Calvin College where she got involved in politics and earned a business economics degree. Afterwards, she worked on Gerald R. Ford’s presidential campaign and started to champion education reform throughout the 1980s.
After marrying Dick DeVos, she wanted to use philanthropy to help education in her home state and beyond. She was close with the Republican Party and even became the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party later on. She advocated for education throughout her political career, especially for educational choice and charter schools. With her husband, she co-founded a pilot training charter school in western Michigan and proposed the bill “Kids First! Coalition” in 2001.
However, her state was not open to educational choice legislation. There were many opposed to the bill because of one issue. Would public funding be used for private education? Today, DeVos has opened up about the issues with educational choice, but she has stated over and over that the benefits are clear. When students now go to schools and feel disappointed because of standardized testing and common core, they can opt to go to a school with more resources that caters to their interests with educational choice.
Many educators do not like educational choice because they say it takes away funding for public schools. However, DeVos disagrees. She states that philanthropy has led the way for education, and she continues to donate funding to educational choice programs. She also has several donors who believe in her cause. This includes Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who have donated to keep educational choice alive in America.
There are two states that have achieved the most success with these programs. Louisiana and Florida have the most educational choice programs. However, Florida is the only state where students can apply for and receive a tuition-based scholarship to attend a school of their choice.
DeVos hopes to bring more programs to different states, and she continues to advocate for educational choice around the US as her term comes to a close.
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