An Artist Performs
Who is Betsy DeVos and why is she an important figure in education, mental health, and school violence debates? Following is a recap of her comments and work about recent school shootings, a look at the public and private DeVos, and how her connection with the Trump Administration impact her work.
Article Recap “Betsy DeVos and Democrats call for congressional hearings in wake of Florida school shooting”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is urging the U.S. Congress to have more hearings following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. According to this article in the Washington Post, Secretary DeVos is calling for more Congressional level conversation aimed specifically at mental health issues. She has the agreement of Democratic lawmakers, who are also calling for more legislative action dealing with firearms restriction and gun safety, including ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Patty Murray. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Bobby Scott and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici are calling for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to schedule hearings on the matter right away, pointing out that in the past five years over 430 people have been injured in more then 230 school shootings, calling it a public health epidemic.
Who Is Betsy DeVos?
Betsy DeVos is the other half of Grand Rapids, Michigan billionaire power couple, Dick and Betsy DeVos. Her husband is a member of the family who co-founded Amway. Betsy is from a wealthy Holland, Michigan family with ties to the Dutch community and the Christian Reformed Church. The DeVos’s are patrons and supporters of many conservative causes, specifically education.
Betsy DeVos is a proponent of charter schools who advocates for the expansion of school choice vouchers. Her opponents accuse her of working against the traditional public education system. While others question her commitment to equality in the charter school education system. She believes that public, private, charter and religious schools can, and should, equally share educational funding. Her philosophy is shared by the Trump Administration and led to her nomination and confirmation of U.S. Secretary of Education. For Secretary DeVos, her job involves tackling issues relating to mental health services, gun violence, and lobbying members of Congress to act on these concerns.
Advocating for Equality in Education
Betsy DeVos is a public figure in every way. In her private, non-political, and philanthropic life, and now in her public life serving in the Trump Administration, Betsy DeVos is working to fix what many refer to as a broken education system. Her private work will continue to stand on its own merit. Her accomplishments as Education Secretary will be judged in concert with other policies set for by the current administration.
Betsy DeVos has found herself at the center of the school shooting and gun control debates. Given her commitment and contribution to educational initiatives in her hometown, look for some innovative solutions to the U.S. education dilemma during her tenure as Education Secretary.
In a year full of surprising moves, President Trump’s appointment of conservative activist Betsy Devos to the position of education secretary was one of the most attention-getting. Ms. Devos has served in Michigan as a Republican party Chairwoman, and she is also known for her activism in the service of charter schools. Ms. Devos has never been involved in public education, however, and her children did not attend public schools. All of this raised eyebrows when Ms. Devos became head of the Department of Education, but the thinking was that she would be a somewhat meek follower of the Trump administration’s policies.
Many of those who know Ms. Devos from her political work in Michigan, however, characterize her as anything but meek. Ms. Devos comes from a wealthy Michigan family, and her husband, Dick Devos, is the son of the founder of the Amway Corporation. Ms. Devos is a billionaire, and she is said to have used her wealth and influence to reward her political allies and to fiercely fight against those who have opposed her.
The Transgender Issue
One of the moves that has drawn attention to Ms. Devos this year is her stance on the Trump administration’s move to rescind a federal ruling that allows transgender students to use bathrooms that match their current gender assignment (http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20161113/NEWS/161119931/river-lake-projects-in-west-michigan-look-to-improve-valued). In public Ms. Devos seemed to support Trump’s move, as she stated that the federal government’s guidelines on the use of restrooms by transgender students was “an example of the Obama administration’s overreach.” Ms. Devos’ private actions, however, tell a different tale.
The New York Times has reported that Ms. Devos met privately with a representative for the parents in her department whose children are gay and transgender students. Ms. Devos was acting to warn the families of the students about the ruling in advance, so they would have time to prepare. An aide at the meeting reportedly said that Ms. Devos did not agree with the ruling by the Trump administration, but in public, she has shown a different attitude on the issues, to say the least.
All of this leaves many political watchers wondering where exactly Ms. Devos stands on other current issues. Is she really a Trump supporter, or will her own feelings on the issues hold sway? Time will tell, as the unpredictable actions of this administration continue to confound.