Small wonder that philanthropist Betsy DeVos has such a consuming interest in education. Before her marriage to Mrs. DeVos’s father, Mrs. DeVos’s mother, Elsa Zweip, was an elementary school teacher in Holland, Michigan’s public school system. For 15 years, Betsy herself served as a mentor for at-risk children within the Grand Rapids public school system. This experience was one of several that helped mold Betsy DeVos’s attitudes toward education. Today, Betsy is the U.S. Secretary of Education, and one of the nation’s leading advocates for educational choice.
What Is Educational Choice?
Educational choice is a strategy that gives parents the ability to select the schools their children attend. As educational choice advocates see it, education is too important an influence upon a child’s life to leave the choice of learning institutions to the happenstances of geography.
Of course, parents who are dissatisfied with public schools in the districts where they live have always had the choice to send their offspring to private schools. What makes the educational choice that Betsy DeVos advocates for so unique is the fact that Mrs. DeVos believes that tax-generated education funds should subsidize a parent’s school choice.
Fighting for What’s Right
People who’ve encountered Betsy DeVos in the performance of those duties associated with her job say that the media almost always gets her wrong. Mrs. DeVos, they note, is a determined and well-informed advocate of the policies she supports, and she does not always agree with the policies of the administration she’s part of.
For example, aides say Betsy DeVos was actually against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind a federal policy that allowed transgender public school students to use the school bathroom that coincided with their gender identification. However, Mrs. DeVos is a team player, so she did not mention her opposition to President Trump’s decision in public. Instead, she met with a representative of transgender employees within the Education Department to advise that person to inform relevant parties that President Trump would soon be making a statement.
The Need for a National Conversation
In great part due to Betsy DeVos’s advocacy on behalf of educational choice, Detroit, Michigan has the largest concentration of charter schools of any place in the nation. Mrs. DeVos wants the national conversation about education to go way beyond public schools versus private schools or charter schools. Mrs. DeVos wants to have a conversation about what the U.S. should expect from schools of all sorts.
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