Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos

American businesswoman, politician and the current United States Secretary of Education


Born in 1958 in the USA 

Citizenship: USA; residence: Holland, Michigan (USA)

Net worth: US$ 1.3B, The DeVos family is one of Michigan’s wealthiest.

Education: Calvin College(earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business economics), Holland Christian Schools

Personal websiteTwitter: @BetsyDeVos





Political Compass: Republican, Formerly served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.

In her own words:

”Passionate about quality education for children and an advocate of school choice.”  (-Betsy).

“My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” (indicated in a 1997 op-ed that she expects results from her political contributions).

 “We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues…We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes, to win elections.”

Electioneering: 5

Betsy DeVos is a reformer, who became involved with campus politics and remained politically active ever since. Her political involvement has spanned more than 35 years, beginning as a volunteer for President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. Her political service has included many Republican leadership tasks with campaigns, party organisations and political action committees—many of them focusing on education choice and reform. Betsy was chosen chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times (from 1996 to 2005) and served on the Republican National Committee (from 1992 to 1998). 

Betsy DeVos supports the creation and expansion of state school voucher and charter school programs in Wisconsin and generally across the country. Betsy and some other members of the family, have almost spent a half-million dollars on direct contributions to mostly Republican and conservative Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates ($79,000 from Betsy). 

Betsy and her husband, Dick,  have also been active in Republican Party politics. She used to be the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and he was an unsuccessful Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2006. They also created and promoted pro-school-voucher electioneering groups, including All Children Matter, and the American Federation for Children (AFC). Until her nomination as Education Secretary (by Donald Trump), Betsy was the director of AFC, which spent about $6.4 million on outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin since January 2010. 

Betsy gave $100,000 to the American Federation for Children’s independent expenditure committee in Wisconsin (in October) and another $25,000 (in August) to the Wisconsin Federation of Children political action committee, which makes direct contributions to candidates. She spent more than $380,000 to federal Republican and conservative committees and candidates in the 2015-16 election cycle.

Lobbying/Advocacy: 4

Betsy is a major supporter for school choice, and she is one of the richest Republican donors in the country. She and her husband gave more than $2.75 million to parties, candidates and PACS during the 2016 election cycle.

 The American Federation for Children is a lobbying and advocacy group, founded by Betsy DeVos, and it is called “the nation’s leading school choice organisation” . According to the website, it is associated with the American Federation for Children Action Fund, which is a political committee that supports state-level candidates for elected office. Moreover, it works with the American Federation for Children Growth Fund “to promote the benefits of — and the need for — school choice, make parents aware of their options, mobilize grassroots supports and ensure private-school-choice-laws work for students.”

The American Federation for Children has always lobbied for choice programs, and still does. This year, it has lobbied the Congress and state legislatures to extend the one and only federally funded school voucher program in the country (in Washington). 

Philanthropy: 5

Betsy DeVos is a expert for excellent education for all students, regardless of their location or socioeconomic level.

The Dick &Betsy DeVos Family Foundation was launched in 1989 as a vehicle for charitable giving and according to their website, their work focuses on education, community, the arts, justice and leadership. The DeVos Foundation, in 2015, made $11.6 million in charitable contributions, bringing the couple’s lifetime charitable giving to $139 million and the same year, Forbes ranked the family as one of America’s top givers. Moreover, the Foundation donated significant amounts of money to hospitals, arts organisations, health research, and Christian schools. Over the years, the Foundation has supported the American Federation for Children, ArtPrize, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology Program, the West Michigan Aviation Academy, and more.

Concerning educational-focused donations, between 1999 and 2004 the Foundation supported: 

  1. private Christian schools (at least $8.6 million)
  2. charter schools ($5.2 million)
  3. public schools ($59,750)


Further reading:

An analysis about Betsy’s philanthropy: Smith, David (2016).  Betsy DeVos, billionaire philanthropist, picked as Trump education secretary. The guardian 

An interview with Betsy DeVos: Philanthropy magazine (2013). Interview with Betsy DeVos, the Reformer. 

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