Some of the citizens of Grand Rapids, MI are having some trouble reconciling the controversial Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos with the one they used to know.
While DeVos is seen as pragmatic, generous and affable, even by those who disagree with her right-wing political leanings, the one working for the Trump Administration comes off as aloof, unprepared and wholly unqualified for the position.
These types of descriptions are not what people who know her would generally say about her, except, they are.
DeVos was born in Holland, MI in 1958 to Edgar and Elsa Prince. Her father, a billionaire industrialist who promoted conservative values and issues in his part of the state. In her Dutch community along the Michigan shore, DeVos was raised in the Christian Reform Church. After college, she wed Dick DeVos, son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos.
They both have worked over the years to transform the state to line up with their conservative ideals. The mega-wealthy couple’s delve into charter schools is well known. She has worked tirelessly to transform most schools and steer them towards her agenda. Regardless of what is said about her, no one can deny she’s a fighter with a great deal of political clout.
No one is really surprised about her convictions regarding education. Her strict Calvin College upbringing and ties to the Netherlands pretty much sums it up. Back in the 1800s, religious and liberal education factions warred for years regarding how Dutch religious schools should be funded.
Many people say DeVos’s stance is dancing on a very fine line that separates church and state. Even American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten believes that DeVos is going out of her way to destroy pubic education.
But one of the biggest knocks against DeVos that they do practice in the Netherlands is school monitoring. DeVos has yet to sign on with monitoring charter schools. Right now, the schools she helped open in Michigan have test scores well behind the many in other states.
Gary Nayerdart, former charter school advocacy group director in Michigan says that people should neither pre-judge or criticize DeVos because of the condition of Michigan’s charter schools. He attributes the decline to state dysfunction and other issues beyond DeVos’s control.
Regardless, supporters and foes alike call for school monitoring. Wayne State University instructor Thomas Pedroni says DeVos has promoted many policies that have left schools in a lurch.
But aside from that, her first months in office as Education Secretary have been shaky to say the least. From a painful confirmation hearing where she answered the question about the necessity of guns in schools with being for protection against grizzly bears. And the cringe-worthy moment about HBCU’s being the original pioneers of school choice.
While many people still cheer for DeVos to do well, other simply chalk it up to the hiring of a good person who does a bad job.
Visit www.betsydevos.com to learn more.