For over twenty-five years, Betsy DeVos has dedicated her work and philanthropy efforts to helping parents send their children to the school of their choice. A lifelong resident of Michigan, her passion for education dates back to her experiences with her mother, a public school teacher, and it continued to grow in the eighties, when she began sending her own children to school. She began volunteering at Potter’s House Christian School, which serves many low-income families in Grand Rapids. She supported Potter’s House for 15 years as an in-school mentor. Meanwhile, her involvement in politics began when she was a student senator while attending Calvin College. During that time she also volunteered for Gerald Ford during his 1976 presidential campaign. By 1992, she was serving on the Republican National Committee. With her political experience and commitment to education, she helped ensure the successful passage of Michigan’s first charter-school bill in 1993. That was a major victory, and more successful efforts to extend school-choice to all parents followed.
Betsy DeVos has said that she is driven by her realization that she was very lucky to send her children to the school she chose; she says it’s only fair that all American parents should have the same right. The foundation that she and her husband founded together, The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, has supported a variety of worthy causes, including a scholarship program that allowed low-income families to decide where their children would attend school. As chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy DeVos supported the push to amend Michigan’s constitution to allow tax-credit scholarships and vouchers to help expand school choice. That effort didn’t succeed, and she turned her attention instead to the rapid expansion of charter-schools in Michigan. The expansion has been popular and successful, and the success has been credited to the advocacy of the Great Lakes Education Project, an organization that DeVos founded. Her husband, Dick DeVos, has even started an aviation charter school called West Michigan Aviation Academy. On the national stage, DeVos has chaired two major school-choice advocacy groups, the Alliance for School Choice, and the American Federation for Children. Through these groups, DeVos was involved in the passage of major education reform in Louisiana and Indiana that could benefit up to one million students per year.
In addition to her school-choice advocacy, DeVos has founded the DeVos Institute for Arts Management, which provides training for managers who run arts organizations. Her interest in the arts also led her to serve on the board ArtPrize, an annual international art competition founded by one of her children. In 1989, she and her husband also founded the Windquest Group, an entrepreneurial firm that has successfully developed sustainable technology. Visit Betsy’s profile page on facebook.com.