Betsy DeVos, a Michigan education activist and major GOP donor, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be his pick for education secretary.
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She is an advocate for school choice and charter schools and has drawn criticism in conservative circles for being associated with groups that support the Common Core.
Here is what you need to know about DeVos:
Name: Betsy DeVos (nee Prince)
Party: Republican. Formerly served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.
Hometown: Holland, Michigan
What she does now: Chairwoman of the Windquest Group, a privately held investment and management firm, and American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group. Serves on a number of additional boards, including Alliance for School Choice, ArtPrize, Philanthropy Roundtable, Foundation for Excellence in Education, DeVos Institute for Arts Management, Great Lakes Education Project and the Potter’s House School.
What she used to do: Betsy was elected chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party four times (1996 to 2005) and served on the Republican National Committee (1992 to 1998).
Family: Married to Dick DeVos — the president of the Windquest Group, an heir to the Amway fortune and a former Republican candidate for governor of Michigan — for over 30 years. She has four children and five grandchildren.
What you might not know about her:
Betsy DeVos is a major advocate for school choice, as well as greater state autonomy in education matters.
She is one of the most prolific Republican donors in the country. According to the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, DeVos and her husband gave more than $2.75 million to candidates, parties and PACS during the 2016 election cycle.
DeVos and her husband were the subject of a Mother Jones profile that labeled them the “new Kochs.” Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have been influential in national politics for decades, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, think tanks, PACs and more.
While part of a strong Republican family in Michigan, Betsy DeVos has said education should be non-partisan: “What we’ve tried to do is engage with Democrats, to make it politically safe for them to do what they know in their heart of hearts is the right thing. Education should be non-partisan.”
She believes some of her greatest successes have been in Florida's (and to a lesser extent, Louisiana's and Indiana's) education system. "Through its tax-credit scholarship program, Florida has enjoyed the nation's longest period of widespread educational choice, and through the expansion of the program, it has an ever growing number of students — currently over 50,000 — attending the school of their family's choice," she said in 2013.
History regarding the Trump ticket:
DeVos backed Marco Rubio in the Michigan primary. In an interview with The Washington Examiner, she said, "I don't think Donald Trump represents the Republican Party … I think more and more people are going to realize that they really don't trust him." She called him an interloper who was clearly gaining support from nontraditional Republicans.
Even leading into the Republican convention, DeVos was not sold on Trump. She cast her vote as an at-large delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "I continue to be listening and observing, and I'm hopeful we are going to hear something from our nominee to convince me that I should support him," she told Mlive.com.
She also told MLive that she was encouraged by Mike Pence's selection as VP.
DeVos met with Trump this weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey. The conversation during the meeting with Trump was, according to the transition team, "focused on the Common Core mission and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation."
Organizations that DeVos has been a part of supported Common Core, leading some to say that she supported the controversial education standards as well. However, she denies backing the standards. "I am not a supporter — period," she said on her website. "I do support high standards, strong accountability and local control. When governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense," she added.
Frank Cannon, the president of the American Principles Project, said in a statement today that DeVos was “an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education.” "This would not qualify as 'draining the swamp' — and it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point," Cannon added.
Breitbart News, a conservative website that endorsed Trump and was once run by his incoming top strategist Steve Bannon, published a piece just hours before the announcement slamming the possibility of her appointment, given what it said was her past support for Common Core and links to the Clinton Foundation.
The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation is listed on the Clinton Foundation website as a donor — a group Trump lambasted on the campaign trail. The contribution was earmarked "exclusively for CGI activities such as memberships, sponsorships and conference fees."
According to the Center for Public Integrity, in a 1997 op-ed DeVos wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, she defended her family's political contributions. "My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party … I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence," the piece reads. "Now, I simply concede the point. 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."