Betsy Devos and her Political Background

The appointment of Betsy Devos to the position of education secretary (in a governmental department in which many of the top positions are currently empty) drew surprise from many governmental watchers last winter. Ms. Devos, who is a billionaire and who served in Michigan as a Republican Party chairwoman, as well as as a leading advocate for charter schools, seemed to lack the experience needed to take on such a high profile position in the Trump administration. Given that, many expected Ms. Devos to act as a generally meek team player in the new administration. Those who know her from her work in Michigan, however, claim that though Ms. Devos is publicly gracious, she is also a determined and tough political fighter who has used her family fortune in order to influence allies as well as political rivals. She has also been known to work behind the scenes to push lawmakers who have opposed her out of office.


The Transgender Policy Fight


This last winter President Trump took action against the federal policy that would allow transgender students to use bathrooms that matched their new gender identification. In public, Ms. Devos actions seemed to indicate that she supported President Trump’s action on the policy, as she stated that the policy itself represented an example of “overreach” on the part of President Obama’s administration. In private, however, Ms. Devos had a meeting in the days before the announcement was made, letting the representative of gay and transgender employees in the education department know in advance of the announcement, so they could be prepared.


A Wealthy Background on Both Sides of the Family


Ms. Devos great fortune comes from her own father, Edgar Prince, who started an auto parts company in Michigan, as well as from her husband, Dick Devos, who is the son of a founder of the Amway products company. Given her great fortune and her lack of a real need for or connection to public schools, many people questioned her appointment to the position of education secretary. As we are learning, however, there is no doubt that Ms. Devos takes her position seriously, and is ready to dig in and fight for what she wants and what she truly believes in.


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