Betsy Devos Has Long Been A GOP Powerhouse — Even Before Becoming Education Secretary

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Betsy DeVos is a wealthy, Christian, conservative Midwesterner who also happens to be the current U.S. Secretary of Education. She's a businesswoman who’s known best for her efforts to promote school choice, a controversial idea that critics say takes money out of public schools. But what did DeVos do before she started working as Trump's secretary education?

DeVos comes from family money, both from her parents and her husbands’. Her dad, Edgar Prince, founded a company that eventually came to be worth a billion dollars, according to Politico, a fortune that was built in part due to innovations like a light-up vanity mirror on the sun visor in cars. Her father-in-law founded the lucrative marketing company Amway.

Even before she pulled up a seat to the table in Washington, DeVos was a power player. In fact, the DeVos family fortune is so plentiful that they get help managing their funds from a family office named RDV Corp., which has something called a Family Council made up of DeVos relatives who vote on family business decisions, according to theWall Street Journal. (DeVos resigned from the council in 2016.)

One perk of having so much money and power is that the DeVoses are loaded with assistants. Through RDV Corp.'s Family Council, they reportedly have a household administrative assistant, a person who makes sure “doors are well-oiled,” and a “boat matinee assistant” who is tasked with making sure proper table etiquette is followed, among other things, WSJ reported. They even have an assistant for the Christmas season, including managing the Christmas card list, wrapping presents, and coming up with gift ideas for the DeVoses and their business associates.

Given her breadth of experience, some might say DeVos, 60, is a jack of all trades — but certainly almost all of those trades have had something to do with promoting Christian and conservative ideas.

What DeVos Did Before She Was Secretary Of Education

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DeVos started getting active in politics at a young age. As a freshman earning her degree in business economics at Christian liberal arts Calvin College in the ‘70s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she volunteered for Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign, as Politico's Zack Stanton reported in a profile about the secretary.

She got involved with the Republican Party starting in 1982, with school choice almost always at the top of her agenda of important issues to take on. She served as the National Committeewoman in Michigan from 1992 to 1997 and was the chair of the state’s Republican Party from 1996 to 2000, as The New York Times reported.

She resigned in 2000 after the state’s governor at the time, John Engler, opposed her ideas to change the laws surrounding school vouchers. But after Engler was out of office, she was re-elected in 2003.

She also served as a chair of the privately held investment company, Windquest Group, and served on myriad boards of nonprofits, businesses, and political organizations.

She and her husband, Dick DeVos, have used their considerable wealth to back conservative ideas, and spent have spent at least $100 million lobbying and funding campaigns over the last 20-odd years, as Politico reported.

School Choice

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For over 20 years now, DeVos and her family have been fighting for what she calls "educational choice." By and large, this means privatizing the educational system and creating voucher programs that take funding away from publics schools. In typical voucher systems, those funds would then be allocated to individual students who can use the money for private and religious school tuition and other education-related services.

Proponents of the idea like DeVos say it will give parents the ability to decide what kind of school is right for their child. However critics have said that this would take money out of already underfunded public schools, as well as further segregate schools, both racially and by social class. Although the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education over 60 year ago, a 2016 study from UCLA showed that school integration was still a huge problem in America.

And the critics of vouchers say that although some pro-school choice people tout these programs as ways to help low income families, they often down work out that way because vouchers don't always cover the entire cost of private school. This amounts to families with more resources leaving for better schools, and more disadvantaged students staying behind in public schools that are worse off.

DeVos has thrown her support behind the choice movement, campaigning on it in her early political days in Michigan and still working towards it as education secretary.

All this is to say that Secretary DeVos is one powerful lady. And she always has been.