Betsy DeVos has always been known as a reformer. Before being married, when she was a young girl named Elizabeth Prince and attending classes at Calvin College, she first became politically active and has remained so ever since.
In the 30 years following her time in college, Mrs. DeVos has taken a leadership role in a variety of political organizations and campaigns. This includes a six-year stint as the chairman of the Republican party in Michigan.
Mrs. Devos, along with her husband Dick, is also heavily involved In philanthropy through a number of non-profit organizations. Betsy is the chairman of the family foundation she founded with her husband as well as a member of multiple local and national organizations that are dedicated to bettering the lives of others.
Mrs. DeVos is maybe best known for her work with the movement to provide choice in education for parents of children in the United States and serves as chairman of two organizations working to achieve this goal.
Mrs. DeVos took time out from her busy schedule recently to speak about her thoughts on reforming the American educational system.
What are your thoughts on the state of the school choice movement in America
I think it is an exciting time for the movement. There are 17 states that now have some form of a private choice program that is funded by the public. In all, there are 250,00 children being educated by schools in these programs. About 40,000 of these students entered these programs in just the last year which is indicative of the explosive growth that is taking place.
To be honest, much of the reason for the rapidly growing popularity of private choice education is the well-known failures of public schools in the country.
When did you first become interested in this movement
A few years back, when my Dick and I had school-aged children ourselves, we visited the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The school served many children of low-income families and I became greatly impressed with many of these families who were willing to do anything to provide a safe and secure learning environment for their children. This and many other incidents in my life has drawn me into this fight. We first began supporting individual students at the Potter’s House and this would eventually lead to a greater commitment being undertaken.
What do you feel has been your biggest success in the push for private school voucher programs
Definitely the developments in the state of Florida. The state has established a tax credit scholarship program that has led to Florida enjoying the longest period of wide access to programs that have provided educational choice. There are currently 50,000 students in the state of Florida that are currently being educated by schools that were chosen by their families.
There has also been great progress in the states of Indiana and Louisiana who have started programs that have the potential to make private choice programs a viable alternative for as many as a million children.
So how would you define success in this fight
Success will be realized when all parents, socioeconomic backgrounds notwithstanding, are given the right to have their children be educated at a school of their choice. Also, children from poor families must be afforded the same opportunities to fully develop their God-given abilities as everyone else.
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