Trump's Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years
Meet Betsy DeVos, the anti-union, pro-voucher surprise nominee.
Last Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate billionaire activist and Republican fundraiser Betsy DeVos as his education secretary. The news came as a shock to the education world—DeVos' ideas for school reforms are even more radical than what Trump proposed on the campaign trail.
Trump's signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to promote "school choice": market-driven education reforms that help families move away from what Trump has called "failing government schools" and instead choose private, religious, or charter schools. The movement for charter schools is bipartisan: Republicans and many centrist Democrats support it. But the DeVos family has been promoting a much more radical idea of choice—one that favors moving public funding to private and religious schools over charters.
Education historian Diane Ravitch believes that—if confirmed by the Senate—DeVos will become the most radical, anti-public-school education secretary since the Office of Education was established in 1867. "Never has anyone been appointed to lead in the past 150 years who was hostile to public education," Ravitch told Mother Jones.
Here are the three most important things to know about Trump's education nominee:
The DeVos family is among America's most wealthy, conservative clans
A daughter of privilege, DeVos is married to Richard (Dick) DeVos Jr., whose father, Richard Sr., co-founded the multilevel-marketing empire Amway and was worth an estimated $5.1 billion. In 1992, Dick DeVos succeeded his father as the president and CEO of Amway and has been the face of the DeVos political dynasty. While the DeVoses aren't as well known as conservative philanthropists like the Koch brothers, they played a key role in building the modern conservative movement and pushing the Republican Party further to the right.
Since 1970, the DeVoses have invested at least $200 million in various right-wing causes—think thanks, media outlets, political committees, and advocacy groups—as a 2014 Mother Jones investigation revealed. "There's not a Republican president or presidential candidate in the last 50 years who hasn't known the DeVoses," Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told my former colleague Andy Kroll.
As Kroll wrote in that 2014 piece:
Ahead of the 1980 elections, Ronald Reagan personally asked [Richard DeVos Sr.] to lead the GOP's national fundraising efforts. Short on cash and reeling Trump's Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years | Mother Jones: