Betsy DeVos: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education under the Trump administration has been described as tough and determined to do what she believes is right. Opposition only makes her stronger. As the secretary of education fighting for the educational needs of the nation, this is not a bad quality to possess. It seems that Trump is surrounding himself with like-minded people whose battle cry is “Make America Great Again.”

 

Ms. DeVos was born in 1958 as Elisabeth Prince and grew up on Holland, Mich. She was raised in the Christian Reformed Church and attended Calvin College on the western side of the state. As a young adult, she worked at the auto party manufacturer founded by her father, Edgar Prince. The Prince family was and is a major backer for conservative and Christian causes. The auto parts manufacturer is now a billion-dollar business. Ms. DeVos’ brother, Erik D. Prince, was the founder and CEO of the controversial private security firm Blackwater. Her husband, Dick, comes from an even wealthier family.

 

Over the years, the Devos couple has contributed billions of dollars to conservative religious and political causes. In Grand rapids, the family’s name is everywhere. The DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Children’s Hospital and the DeVos Center for Arts and Worship are just a few of the many organizations and buildings that bear the family’s name.

 

Ms. DeVos strongly believes in equal opportunities for all children to receive a proper education. She is an avid supporter of charter schools over public schools. For the past 30 years, she has sought public funds for vouchers to pay for tuition for private schooling that includes education in religious schools. According to her opponents, charter schools are a conservative scheme that will undermine public education by stealing resources. However, supporters state that charter schools give low-income families options for educating their children and creates a certain level of competition that encourages improvement for traditional schools.

 

Because of her efforts, Detroit the most charter schools than anywhere else in the nation. Supply exceeded demand in some places with public schools continuing to deteriorate. A bill created in 2017 to allow for the opening of new charter schools and the closing of failing ones was produced by Detroit officials and a group of bipartisan state lawmakers. A group the Ms. DeVos created, known as the Great Lakes Education Project, fought the against the bill and won. DeVos believes that the public-school system in Detroit should be shut down. Ms. DeVos is partial to private education and believes that teachers are more like puppets on a string than free agents to take initiative as they see fit. She is pushing to promote charter schools and vouchers, which allow students to use public funding to pay for private and/or religious education.

 

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Sightsavers: Giving the Gifts of Sight and Resources to the Forgotten

 

The gift of sight is priceless. To see what is in front of us is nothing short of a daily miracle. However, there is someone in another part of the world that is suffering with the curse of preventable blindness and/or other disabilities because they cannot afford the surgery or the necessary treatment. Then, we hear about an organization that is answering prayers all over the world!

Sightsavers is an organization that works to prevent blindness in poor countries, namely in Africa and Asia. It was founded on January 5, 1950 in the United Kingdom by Sir John Wilson (who was blinded by a chemical experiment) and his wife, Lady Jean Wilson. Sightsavers was originally named the British Empire Society for the Blind.

 

Sightsavers also works to help people with disabilities (including blindness) find jobs or learn a trade to be able to have the privilege of supporting themselves and feeling a sense of accomplishment and inclusion in mainstream society. In the blog piece titled, Lessons from Our First Inclusive Eye Health Project, author Daisy Macdonald researches the significance of societal inclusion for visually disabled people, and breaks down the steps necessary to for the ideal to come to fruition. The blog piece also explores the logistics for poor blind people to gain access to proper health facilities, medications and support as deemed necessary.

 

There is a video about a debilitating eye disease in Ethiopia called Trachoma. Trachoma is the number one preventable eye disease in the world, as it touches poor people with no consistent hygiene resources, no support, and no political voice. The disease is caused by flies that feed off of feces from humans that have a form of the disease, chlamydia. When the flies leave the feces, they carry the disease on their feet and land on people’s faces, specifically on their eyes. When people are infected by trachoma, their eyelashes grow inward, painfully scratching the cornea. Eventually, the person goes blind. Sightsavers is one of the partners that is helping communities rid themselves of the disease by teaming with local political/social leaders and medical facilities in the area. Together, they are working to give the communities resources like surgery, education, antibiotics, and access to clean toilet areas and ample water supplies to wash their face and hands accordingly, repelling the flies and destroying the disease.

 

Many thanks to Sightsavers, an organization that cares.

DeVos Shows a More Aggressive Demeanor in Private

Donald Trump recently signed a measure that rescinds the Obama-era policy that gave transgender students and teachers the right to use the bathroom they identify with. Before they were blindsided by the news, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of the Department of Education, met with representatives of transgender employees to inform them of the decision. She even reportedly went so far as to tell them that she opposes the president’s position on the matter.

 

This wouldn’t seem like a big deal to you if you have known DeVos for awhile. It is out of character, though, considering her attitude during her short tenure as secretary. So far, DeVos has been sort of a “yes man” within the Trump organization, at least publicly.

 

During a recent speech, DeVos said that the transgender bill that Obama signed was an overreach of the federal government’s powers. Her public position seems to waver from what she is telling her employees in private. So, what can we expect from her in the future?

 

To be fair, DeVos has only held the position for a few months, meaning she could become more aggressive over time as she gets more comfortable with her job and her colleagues. Those who know her best are surprised at her relatively meek manner so far as secretary. She is well known for being headstrong in fighting for what she wants in her home state of Michigan. It is important to point out that her beliefs fall in line when it comes to education fall in line with Trump on most issues.

 

Betsy was hand-picked by Trump as the secretary after developing a reputation fighting for charter schools and private school vouchers in her home state, both strong Republican positions. Charter schools are for-profit schools run by private organizations, while they still must follow state guidelines when it comes to education to be accredited. Vouchers would allow individuals as a sort of tax credit that allows them to use the money towards private school tuition.

 

DeVos was known in Grand Rapids, Michigan to be tireless in fighting for these two things. That wasn’t her only asset though, she also had her family’s opulent wealth to use as a tool. She is a member of the Prince family, one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Western Michigan. They made most of their money owning and operating the Prince Corporation, an automobile parts distribution company.

 

DeVos was born into a Dutch community near Holland, Michigan, a city on the coast of Lake Michigan. The Secretary was raised in a very strict Dutch Reform Christian church community, which is part of what drives her to champion school vouchers and charter schools. Heading the Prince Foundation and the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, she is also very active in the local arts community.

 

You may have heard of her husband, Dick DeVos, thanks to his unsuccessful run for the Republican seat of Governor in Michigan in 2006. He too comes from an extremely wealthy family. The DeVos family has ownership in Amway, the biggest mail-order retailer in the world.

 

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Betsy DeVos Continues Family Charitable Tradition

The DeVos family giving tradition began with Richard and Helen DeVos. Helen, who just recently passed away, has a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids Michigan named after her. She didn’t just give money. She enjoyed visiting and reading books to the patients. Richard DeVos is the cofounder of Amway, and was still running that company when Betsy married his son, Rich, who was also working for Amway at the time. She clearly knew she was joining a family that was both successful in business and generous with their money. Helen DeVos was her mother-in-law.

 

Betsy and her husband Rich have followed in the footsteps of his parents. And they took it in their own direction after they visited a private school for low-income children, The Potter’s House in Grand Rapids. According to Betsy, the determination of the parents of the students to give their sons and daughters the best education possible even though it meant a financial sacrifice to the family deeply impressed her. She and Rich had young children at the time. She appreciated how their wealth guaranteed good educations for their children, and wanted that available for all children, regardless of family income. Therefore, The Potter House has remained one of the recipients of their giving. And, like her mother-in-law, Betsy also volunteers her time there. She has served as a volunteer tutor. She went on to become a great advocate for school choice. Those efforts have resulted in her appointment by President Donald Trump as Secretary of Education. Of course, that was a political decision based on her activities to advance the cause of school choice. However, the root of her belief in the benefits of school choice is the same dedication to improving education for children, especially the poor and middle class children whose families cannot afford private schools.

 

The Dick and Betsy Family Foundation contributes to a wide variety of causes, though education is the central theme. Some of the recipients of their generosity include The 74, an educational launched by Campbell Brown, a former anchor of CNN and Loudspeaker Media, Inc. They also supported Brown’s nonprofit organization The Partnership for Educational Justice. They gave money to Success Academy Charter Schools, which are in New York City and run by Eva Moskowitz. They support GREAAT Schools, Inc., a nonprofit management company for charter schools. Her and her husband’s foundation gave to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Betsy sat on their board. She recently left the American Federation for Children. And they donated to the Alliance for School Choice. And they support Christian educational groups such as: Christian Schools International, Grand Rapids Christian School Association, the Ada Christian School Society and the Rehoboth Christian School Association.

 

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