Betsy Devos

There appear to be two different sides of Betsy DeVos’ personality. What you see depends on who you are. Take for example the incident that predated President Trump rescinding federal policy which allowed transgender students to use the restrooms that matched their gender identity


Before the public announcement, Ms. DeVos met with a representative for gay and transgender employees at the education department. She wanted to give them a heads up on the ruling which was about to come down. An aide told the employee that Ms. DeVos had fought the move. However, in public, her feelings were not quite as clear. There was no public sign that she disagreed with the administration’s decision, and is on the record as stating the earlier federal guidelines were a result of the Obama administration’s overreach.


People who know Ms. DeVos indicate that this is typical of her methodology. She will not fight publically, in fact, she is often seen as a very gracious figure. She is, however, a relentlessly effective fighter, using the combination of her driven personality and her family’s fortune to work behind the scenes, rewarding those who further her agenda, punishing those who get in her way and supporting lawmakers who will pass legislation that supports her efforts.


DeVos came into her current position with no experience working for the government and a very light history with the president. The upper levels of the Education Department were largely vacant. Both her fans and foes have no concerns about her quickly getting up to speed. She has often been underestimated, which is to the detriment of her opponent. Her personable public persona hides the underlying grit she has used to build her success.


Ms. DeVos grew up in Holland, MI, the daughter of a businessman who built his fortune in auto parts. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the private security firm that provides contractor services in Afghanistan and Iraq. DeVos’s husband is even more wealthy, his father is the founder of Amway.


DeVos’s opponents have complained of her lack of experience in public schools and colleges. Both her and her husband, as well as her children, had private educations. Ms. DeVos has spent 30 years working to build support for charter schools and to allow individuals to use public funds to pay for private schools, including religious schools, in the form of vouchers.


Largely due to MS. DeVos’ work, Detroit has the largest concentration of charter schools in the United States, many of which are underperforming and chaotic. The public school system, affected by the siphoning of funds, has continued its downward spiral. She was confirmed by the Senate to head the Education Department by a vote of 1-50, with the Vice President casting the deciding vote.


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