Betsy Devos – the new US Education Secretary

Betsy DeVos had never held a public office before her appointment to be Secretary of Education. She had made a name in the field of Education as an advocate for educational choice and pluralism. As head of the national agency responsible for public education at all levels, she faced strong challenges and many doubters. No one doubts the importance of education to the national economy and well-being. In a sense, today’s educators shape the nation’s future. The educational community in the US was deeply divided over the question public versus private education. It was a particularly sharp division in the ranks of elementary and secondary school providers.


The field of education was filled with controversy long before the election of 2016; the focus during the campaigns extended into the new administration. There was a commitment to take new and different approaches. The US was in the midst of a bitter struggle over educational policy and the overall direction of national education. There were many forces at work and all faced reality. The US lagged far behind its European and Asian competitors in student achievement. Despite vast amounts of spending, the quality of education depended more on the neighborhood in which students lived than on their talent, ambition, and family support. Betsy DeVos did not invent the controversy, but neither she did not shy away from it. She accepted the challenge and did not waiver from her core beliefs.


– Beliefs Shaped by History

Betsy DeVos grew up in Western Michigan. She was part of a wealthy family descended from Dutch immigrants. From her early years of Church and school, Mrs. DeVos’ life was immersed in Christian Reformist ideals. Brought over with Dutch settlers, the ideals of Calvinism resonated with her from her early years. She attended private schools and the Calvin College. She lived in a community that appreciated the value of religious-based education. Her background insured her activism both in the Republican Party and in the cause of school choice. She has relentlessly advocated for parent choice and charter schools as a useful alternative to public education.


Many advocates of public education genuinely believe in the potential of education to help individuals reach their potential and to prepare young people for citizenship and successful lives. Mrs. DeVos agrees, but she also believes that private schools and religious-based schools are better choices for some families and students.


– Today’s Challenges

In one dizzying week, Mrs., DeVos toured schools, appeared with the rapper Pitbull, and stood next to the President to announce policies on student civil rights. Her consistent approach to all of these situations was to follow the lead of the administration in public and to continue to press for the ideals that have shaped her core beliefs in education. Mrs. DeVos is a fighter, and she believes in family choice and the need for many sources of education.


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