DeVos critics shut down by release of charitable donations

The DeVos family, headed by Rich DeVos, the billionaire cofounder of Amway, has routinely made the Forbes list of the most giving families in the United States. Having donated more than $1 billion over the course of 40 years, the DeVos family is the largest single philanthropic entity in the state of Michigan and has long championed local causes around the West Michigan area, where the family originated.

 

One of the most famous members of the family is Dick DeVos, who is best known to most people for his 2006 failed bid for the governorship of Michigan. Even though he lost, the race was incredibly close, with DeVos losing to then incumbent governor, Jennifer Granholm, by just a few percentage points. DeVos famously spent nearly $40 million of his own money running the campaign, which to this day he does not regret in the slightest.

 

However, DeVos and his wife Betsy DeVos are not without their critics. Many opponents of the DeVos family have long maintained that their charitable giving was largely in the form of political contributions. Never ostentatious or quick to engage in controversy, Dick DeVos had never found it necessary to reply to these critics, even as their bellowing reached a fevered pitch.

 

However, after Betsy DeVos was appointed the Secretary of Education by President Trump, as part of the vetting process, she was required to disclose all of her family’s charitable giving over the last decade. For the first time, the public became privy to the actual destination of all of the family’s charitable dollars. The results of this disclosure were quite striking.

 

Over the last approximately 20 years, DeVos has given away over $100 million of his own personal money to charitable causes. The vast majority of these have been non-political in nature. Over half of the donations have gone directly to education, through the DeVos family philanthropy called Great Lakes Education Foundation.

 

The vast majority of these donations go directly into the hands of students or directly to the programs that students use on a daily basis. Samples of some of the recipients of DeVos family charity include Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Ferris State University, the Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School, DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, Northwood University and many others. The single thread that holds these targets of DeVos largesse together is that almost all of them are located within the state of Michigan.

How Betsy DeVos Supports School Choice

As a lifelong philanthropist, Betsy DeVos has donated to a large number of charities and nonprofits. Her favored types of charities are for education and the arts but she also donates to nonprofits that are dedicated to building leadership as well as churches and other causes. Additionally, she has spent time in leadership positions within the Republican party including serving as the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for six years.

Educational reform is the largest cause that Betsy DeVos both donates money to as well as serving in leadership positions for a number of organizations that are dedicated to changing how the educational system works in the United States. Many public schools provide a very poor education to students, especially those where the majority of children come from families earning a low income. Betsy believes that the solution is charter schools that are operated by private companies. She thinks children receive a much better education in this environment and will thus achieve much more in their careers. In order to help parents pay for this, Betsy DeVos proposes tax reforms such as vouchers and tax credits as well as educational savings accounts which will be tax advantaged. Read her interview with Philantrophy Table.

Two of the educational reform organizations that Betsy has served on the boards of are the American Education Reform Council and Children First America, both of which are national organizations. She has also championed educational reform in her home state of Michigan where she founded the Great Lakes Education Project. This nonprofit pushed for expanded charter schools in Michigan as well as legislation that would help to support that effort. Another educational organization she chaired was the American Federation for Children which also pushed for educational reform on a national basis.

Betsy DeVos points to Florida as one of her biggest achievements in educational reform. Today, through her efforts the state has a tax-credit scholarship program which helps parents pay to have their children attend the school of their choice. While several groups have opposed these reforms in support of public schools, Betsy and the school choice organizations in the state been able to protect the programs that were passed.

Betsy DeVos began serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education in February 2017. She has pledged to serve as an advocate of students and their parents in her support of providing more educational choices being made nationally available. Showing her longtime support of children she has pointed to the 15 years she spent as a mentor to at-risk children within the Grand Rapids Public Schools system. She thinks all children are entitled to a quality education that prepares them well for entry into the job market after graduating from high school and then college.

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