Holland, Michigan is proud of their hometown girl. Betsy DeVos and her Husband Dick are royalty in Holland. Dick is the son of Richard DeVos, one of the co-founders of Amway. And Betsy is the daughter of a wealthy auto industry executive. The DeVos family believes the public school system isn’t working. The couple decided to help change the Michigan public school system years ago. Today, Michigan has a large concentration of charter schools thanks to Betsy and Dick. And 41 other states also have charter schools. At last count, more than three million kids around the country go to a charter school.
Betsy DeVos didn’t come up with the idea to have investors get involved in teaching children. Ray Budde, a University of Massachusetts professor came up with the idea in 1974. And in 1988, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, thought the concept was a good way to reform the school system. In 1991, Minnesota was the first state to put a charter school in place, and in 1992 California did the same thing. But Betsy DeVos and husband Dick are the people who put the money and the energy behind the charter school program in Michigan.
Now that DeVos is the education secretary, she wants to expand the 6,800 charter schools by cutting the budgets in regular private schools and offering vouchers to low-income students so they can attend a school of their choice. Blending capitalism with education sounds like a great idea, but DeVos and her education team are running into strong resistance from teachers, politicians, and educators. But facing resistance and being on the firing line is the way Betsy likes to roll. She is a strong-willed, dedicated billionaire who believes what she is doing is right for the country. But her management style turns some people off, and her “to the point” conversation style leaves a lot of people feeling cold. The recent strikes by teachers in several states brought out her frigid style. And her recent visit to schools in Florida and Oklahoma didn’t help her image. Teachers say the government’s lack of funding and the paltry teacher pay scale is an insult to teachers.
Secretary DeVos is still banging heads with the press. Her 60 Minutes interview was a train wreck, and her meeting with the 2018 teachers of the year didn’t end well either. It seems Jon Hazell, an Oklahoma teacher got into a verbal spat with DeVos over pulling funding away from public schools. Then in her home state of Michigan, she found herself defending her decision not to visit the public schools that are struggling. A news reporter asked her if she plans to visit those struggling schools in her home state. Rather than addressing the issue, DeVos told the reporter she was not visiting any schools today. She was a robotics competition when the reporter asked that question. Betsy isn’t changing her mission or her personality to appease anyone. She is still education secretary in an administration that has a revolving door in place, and that says something about Betsy’s tenacity.
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