The DeVos name in Michigan is like the Kennedy name in Massachusetts. Those two names symbolize political and social movements. The Kennedy’s are the popular liberals, and the DeVos name is part of the conservative engine that is trying to revolutionize the public school system. Dick DeVos, the Amway heir and the former CEO of the company, has always had political aspirations.
Dick ran for governor in 2006, and he continues to donate millions to the Republican cause. But all his donations didn’t mean much on a countrywide scale until Donald Trump went to Washington. Trump saw something in Dick’s wife, Betsy and he liked what he saw. Trump thought he could use Betsy to disrupt the education department, so he gave Betsy the nod to be education secretary. That nod is still an issue with millions of people who believe Betsy is trying to turn public schools into for-profit businesses.
In order to understand Dick’s political motives, it’s important to understand his religious convictions. Dick and Betsy are Calvinistic Christians. They believe religion should be part of a public education platform. But Betsy is not actively pursuing a marriage between the church and the public education system yet. Dick is a strong supporter of the charter school system, and Betsy is pushing the voucher and charter school system they support in Michigan, nationwide.
Mr. DeVos and his family foundation give millions to other causes like the Grand Rapids Children’s Hospital, and the aviation charter high school Dick founded at the Grand Rapids International Airport. In 2000, Dick tried to get his tax-funded voucher program passed so low- income students could go to private schools, but he didn’t get enough support to make that happen. So Betsy is taking the voucher concept nationwide, and she is getting the same kind of reception Dick got in Michigan in 2000.
But Dick isn’t a guy who wallows in his failures. In a recent HBO documentary that some people call a “combative interview,” Dick said the Michigan charter school system is producing positive results. According to Correspondent Gianna Toboni, the Michigan public school system is a mess. She said the low-income families in Detroit and other Michigan cities blame DeVos for putting the charter school program in place without considering what it would do the current public schools. But Dick DeVos said that is the nature of competition. Not everybody wins when a new school concept takes over.
Reforming the public education system is one of Dick’s priorities. He is a former member of the Michigan school board, so he knows the internal workings of school boards, and he believes all school boards need updating. He wants to be part of the group that offers students and their families alternatives to the old and somewhat out of sync public school system. And Dick has the money, and the power to make a difference in Michigan. And he has the education secretary on his side to make a difference in the public school system nationwide.
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