U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been active in the field of education reform for almost four decades. She has been described as a lifelong reformer in that DeVos consistently seeks out innovative answers to pressing social issues, especially concerning education. Her passion for supporting philanthropic efforts focused on education began when she visited the Potter’s House Christian School in Michigan, which serves many low-income families but still requires them to pay tuition. After committing to sponsor several individual students at the school, the DeVos family strengthened their ties to the school and expanded their philanthropic efforts to other educational opportunities for low-income students.
This experience paved the way for DeVos to become a passionate leader in the educational choice movement. Along with her husband, Dick DeVos, she campaigned to pass Michigan’s first charter school bill more than 25 years ago. Instead of sending children to a school based on their zip code alone, DeVos advocates for more freedom in parents choosing where their children go to school. She says that she is encouraged by the increased role that technology is playing in education reform because she thinks it will lessen the importance of a school’s physical location with respect to a child’s access to educational opportunities. DeVos is also confident that students will have a more engaging educational experience as more classrooms incorporate newer technology-based programs into their curriculum.
One aspect of public education choice that DeVos has been a fierce advocate of is charter schools. Her husband opened an aviation academy in Michigan as a way to combine his love of flying and commitment to expanding educational opportunities for children regardless of income or background. DeVos sees charter schools as one of the many pillars of school choices for parents looking to provide the most enriching educational experience for their children.
In her current role as Education Secretary, DeVos has traveled the world to see various examples of successful charter schools in action and looks for ways to bring those thriving programs back to the U.S. She has pointed to schools in Florida as a shining example of a national school choice model because of their diverse program offerings. DeVos has also offered praise for voucher programs that provide public funding for children to attend private or religious schools as an alternative to the offerings in their specific zip code. Without these programs, students from low-income communities would likely never have access to the type of educational opportunities that can lift them out of poverty and pave the way for college or vocational training. DeVos says that she will remain committed to working for expanded access to educational choices for all in both her public and private life.
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