“She’s as genuine and regular a person as you could meet…Just a regular person who happens to be a millionaire or billionaire,” says Gary Naeyaert, a former director of a charter school reform group which was founded by Betsy DeVos, current Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.
She is, however, a magnet for controversy in various education sectors. She was active in Michigan politics as a Republican Party Chairwoman and has donated generous amounts to the party. She and her husband Dick, also active in politics, donate heavily to conservative think tanks and believe strongly in the free-market ideology.
She was described by a former GOP attorney general in the state as “very determined, steely when she sets her mind on a goal.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, an opponent of charter schools and vouchers, describes her as “personable, plain-spoken, but she is dangerous.”
She and her family were all educated in private schools. One of her goals was to share public school funds with religious schools. She supports run-for-profit schools and believes regulations for them should be free of regulations and performance standards. The free market should determine where children should go to school, according to their parents’ decision.
She has been criticized for education programs she advocated for children in Detroit, one of the lowest performing school systems in the nation. Charter school tried and failed to raise education levels. Many have closed. Some critics are hopeful that the failure will lead to a greater emphasis on raising public school levels.
Naeyaert says the failures were not her fault. Despite her efforts, it was the Detroit Public Schools system is dysfunctional and unable to teach the kids. He also said there are too many “entrenched special interest groups” fighting it. He feels the city of Detroit is losing a sense of community.
The Devos family has made major donations to improve the city of Grand Rapids. Their names are found on many of the buildings which have been built with substantial funds from their abundant wealth. They have revitalized the city, evidence being bustling breweries and restaurants.
For updates, follow Betsy DeVos on Facebook.