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How Betsy DeVos Has Built Support For Charter Schools Across The Nation

Betsy DeVos is a lifelong reformer. When studying at Calvin College, she was deeply involved in campus politics. For over 30 years since she has remained politically active. She has led several campaigns and political action committees. She spent six years serving the Michigan Republican Party as its chair. Her husband, Dick DeVos, ran for governor of Michigan in 2006.

She is also a businesswoman. Betsy DeVos and her husband own the Windquest Group and she is the chair of the board. This is a conglomerate that invests in technology, green energy, and manufacturing. They established this company in Grand Rapids in 1989. Dick DeVos was once the chief executive officer of Amway and he was once the Orlando Magic’s president.

She has served on the board of several nonprofits. This includes the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, which she chairs. Other boards she has served on include Excellence in Education, Mars Hill Bible Church, the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, the Alliance for School Choice, the American Federation for Children, and Kids Hope USA.

Wisconsin was the first state to allow students to use a voucher to attend a charter school 25 years ago. Betsy DeVos is optimistic about the future of private schools. About 250,000 children attend a private school and in 33 states they receive public funding. She says that traditional public schools are failing their students and more people can see this nowadays. People are now open to things like education savings accounts, education tax credits, and vouchers.

When her kids were school-age, Betsy DeVos visited the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids. This school serves children from low-income households. She met parents who were doing everything they could to have their children in a safe environment where they could learn. She saw that the kids were curious and loved each other. They often visited this school and then started sponsoring individual students. Her family’s foundation continues to support this private school.

She started to get involved in the school choice movement in the 1990s. She served on the board of directors for two national nonprofits, the American Education Reform Council and Children First America. Both of these organizations advocated for tax credits and vouchers. In 1993, Betsy DeVos and her husband supported the first charter school bill in Michigan. They tried to get the Michigan constitution changed to allow tax-credit vouchers or scholarships in 2000 but voters rejected it.

After the constitutional amendment failed, she started the Great Lakes Education Project political action committee. This PAC supported the expansion of charter schools across Michigan. After meeting a lot of success in the first two years, they started advocating for charter schools nationally.

She says her biggest success in education reform has taken place in Florida. It offers a tax-credit scholarship program. Over 50,000 students now attend a charter school in that state. They got the ball rolling by building support for charter schools among the general public and state legislators.

 

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