Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick are in the news a lot. People are always talking about their actions, and these actions are often the subject of criticism. They have been in the habit of giving large sums of money to political sources, but those donations pale in comparison to what they give to their favorite charities. It has been said that they have given $139 billion to charity so far.
These contributions have been in the news since Betsy DeVos became U.S. Education Secretary earlier in the year. The contributions that have been called into question were offered to Republican candidates and school choice initiatives, but Betsy and her husband have not tried to hide the millions of dollars that they have donated through their foundation. In 2015, Betsy and Dick donated $11.6 million to various charities, according to the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and this number is twice what they donated over the past five years.
The History of the DeVos Family and Charitable Giving
The DeVos family has been a contributor to the Republican Party for several years, and Dick’s dad Rich DeVos started the family on this road after he co-founded the corporation known as “Amway.” In 2015, Rich DeVos and all four of his children donated a total of $104 million to charity. For this incredible offering, Forbes gave the 24th place to the DeVos family on its “America’s Top Givers” list. Forbes estimated that the DeVos family has given approximately one-fourth of its wealth away in charitable giving. The family’s fortune is estimated to be worth $5.2 billion, and they have given about $1.33 billion over their lifetimes.
Betsy DeVos also comes from a family that has not been a stranger to making charitable contributions. Her father was Holland industrialist Edgar Prince who was also known for making generous donations to charitable and political causes.
Betsy and Dick have demonstrated that education is extremely important to them. In 2015, the couple donated approximately $3 million to causes related to education. That would have been 26 percent of the money that they donated during that year. The foundation also gave $357,000 to support education reform.
According to Dick DeVos, the educational system is not promoting the American dream as he believes it deserves to be promoted, and he thought that it could be considered to be a civil rights issue. He stated in an interview that children who do not live in the “right” zip codes do not have access to the American dream in the same way as other children. This fact is making it impossible for these kids to get the education that will lead them toward the American dream.
The Beliefs of Betsy and Dick
Betsy and Dick DeVos believe that charter schools and vouchers are two things that will help these kids, but their critics say that charter schools and vouchers take money from the public schools.
Dick DeVos has answered his critics by stating that offering parents more choices will cause the public education system to improve, but he wants to stress the fact that he does not blame the school system’s employees. Mr. DeVos stated that the administrators and teachers have been working very hard, but he also believes that they could do better. What they need is a better system that will support these wonderful teachers in reaching every child in every classroom.
Criticism and the Defense
Critics of Betsy and Dick DeVos say that the couple is making charitable and political contributions to advance their agenda of vouchers and charter schools that are run by for-profit entities. Attorney Mark Brewer believes that Betsy and Dick DeVos released their charitable contributions to the public to keep people from looking into their political contributions.
A spokesman for the couple stated that Betsy and Dick only wanted to be forthcoming about their charitable giving. He believes that they would have released this information even if Betsy had not been nominated to be the U.S. Education Secretary.
Betsy and Dick stated that the contributions can all be characterized as charitable contributions. One of the recipients has been the Great Lakes Education Foundation, an advocacy group that Betsy and Dick started for the benefit of charter schools. The couple also states that most of their donations are designated toward helping people. These organizations are not political organizations that exist to advance a political agenda.
Betsy and Dick support several schools, and they are schools that offer a rigorous work load along with adult supervision and support. Accountability is also at the forefront. They have made a point of supporting Grand Rapids Christian Schools financially as well as an urban Christian school by the name of “Potter’s House.”
West Michigan Aviation Academy
In 2012, Betsy and Dick opened the first charter school that focuses on aviation, and they built it on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school was called the “West Michigan Aviation Academy,” and Betsy and Dick donated the first airplane. They also gave the school $315,000. In addition, highly notable people have attended the school’s annual fundraiser, including Apollo astronauts and former President George W. Bush.
Betsy and Dick boasted that their charter school has accomplished many great things since it opened. Last year, 15 licensed pilots graduated with the class. The school’s curriculum focuses on the STEM subjects, robotics and aeronautical engineering. Many of the children come from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and are members of minority groups. The state of Michigan has said that 86 percent of these kids graduate from the school.
About Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos has been involved in politics since she attended Calvin College. While there, she entered into the political arena and hasn’t stopped. In 1976, she volunteered for President Gerald R. Ford, and through the years, she has spent her time in service to campaigns, political action committees and party organizations that focused on reforming education and giving parents more choices. She has even served as the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2005. She also served on the Republican National Committee from 1992-1998.
Mrs. DeVos also has a lifelong interest in the arts. Former President George W. Bush nominated her to serve on the Board of Trustees for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She and her husband also had the opportunity to provide funds for the DeVos Institute of Arts Management that is located on the grounds of the University of Maryland. The institute’s focus is on business within the artistic world.
President Donald Trump nominated Mrs. DeVos to be U.S. Education Secretary, but she had no idea how grueling the confirmation process would be. She stated that she was willing to undergo anything to have the chance to help children all over the country. Mrs. DeVos hopes that every child in America will have the same chance to obtain a great education as her own children. She is aware that there are some very good schools out there that are doing what is right for their kids, but her plan is to increase the number of kids who benefit from the education that they receive. She believes that the answer to this problem is to offer parents more choices, and she will continue in that direction.