Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick DeVos are many things. They are lobbyists, reformers, investors, and philanthropists. Their philanthropy work has involved them dedicating most of their time in education. They have been actively involved in proposing and implementing education legislations to enhance the education system in the country. The DeVoses created a scholarship program known as Education-Choice Program that seeks to not only to make education accessible to every child but also to ensure they get quality education at the school of their choice.
The Education-Choice Program is a success with over 250,000 children in 17 states benefitting from the program. The movement has been well-embraced and has seen a significant increase of children enrolling in the program year on year. When asked what inspired her to embark on this journey, Betsy pointed out that her children who were at a school going age at the time “touched home.”
Their kids were privileged to attend any school they wished but unfortunately that was not the case for many other children. Betsy recalls visiting Potter’s House Christian School, “Paying tuition was a huge sacrifice for these parents. Our support started gradually by supporting individuals in that school and eventually grew into a larger commitment.”
As their passion for education grew, her husband Dick DeVos, decided to run for the State Board of Education in Michigan because he felt he could contribute a lot to the education sector in the state. He was elected in 1990, and that prompted Betsy to start a program that awarded scholarships to low-income families. “Since we had the privilege of sending our kids to the right schools, it only seemed fair that other parents shared the privilege,” Betty said.
Despite the fact that the program was fulfilling and helped many parents and children, it was too small scale and would not address the real problem. They decided to scale it up and hence the education-Choice Program was born. After failing to reform the state constitution to allow vouchers & tax-credit scholarships, Betsy started a political committee called the Great Lakes Education Project. The aim of the committee was to enhance education reforms through the increase of charter schools in the state.
Over the course of two years, the Michigan committee’s task proved successful that they opted to upscale it to a national level. Since influencing education reforms on a national scale is a much larger task requiring much more people including elected officials to pass legislation, they decided to form the America Federation for Children. It is an umbrella organization affiliated with multiple organizations aiming to reform education in the country.