Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, and her husband Dick DeVos are known to be the reformist from Grand Rapids. Betsy is currently the education secretary in the U.S.A. but her journey started a long time ago while she was studying at Calvin College where she first got involved in campus politics, and she has been involved in politics to this day. In an interview with Philanthropy, she discussed her journey, and it is quite inspiring.
She discussed how in the 25 years since Wisconsin instituted the private school voucher program it has grown more than anyone could expect. She described how over the years the program has accelerated and today there are over 33 programs that have grown out of the one started 25 years ago. She also mentioned that the programs have benefited over 250,000 students in close to 17 stated countrywide.
In the interview she also described how she got involved in the program. She described her journey as gradual rather than radical. It all started when her kids were in school and she planned to visit Potter’s House Christian School. When the public school system failed, Potter’s House Christian School has been serving the low-income families in Grand Rapids for over 30 years. During their visit, she discovered how many parents from low-income families did all they could so as to make sure that their children received a quality education in a safe environment. That is when she started supporting the school.
Betsy DeVos support evolved and she started a foundation that gave children from low-income scholarships. The scholarship allowed the parents to choose the school they would like to take their children where they would receive a quality education. However, she soon realized that the scholarship only assisted a few students and it did not address the fundamental problem.
After her realization, she then served on the board for two charities which worked hard to expand educational choice through vouchers as well as tax credits. Betsy and her husband Dick were actively involved in passing the first Charter school bill in Michigan back in 1993. They have however hit road blocks on their journey. In 2000 they unsuccessfully tried to change the states constitution, so it would allow a tax credit on scholarships and vouchers. It was so devastating because there are so many families in Michigan that needed the educational options.
After her unsuccessful try, she did not stop there; she became chair of the Michigan Republic Party. She then started a political action committee that was referred to as Great Lakes Education Project whose sole purpose was to promote education reform by expanding the number of charter schools in the State. The movement was so powerful with plenty of results that there were suggestions to take it national.
Her efforts are most successful in Florida because the state has enjoyed wide spread educational choice and expansion of the program with the number of students growing every day. Other mentionable states include Louisiana and Indiana.
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