The Philanthropic Journey of Betsy DeVos

Elisabeth Dee DeVos is the current America’s Secretary of Education. She is well known in the philanthropic world, having started Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation with her husband in 1969. She has also been involved in the movement for educational reform for a long time. She is well known for the financial support she has been giving to different students and education centers. She says her decision to support educational reforms was a gradual process and driven by many factors.


Betsy is known for her fight to remove barriers, bring change, and create an environment that gives people an opportunity to flourish. Notably, her frequent visits with her husband Dick to Potter’s House Christian School played an important role in shaping her decision. At the school, they came across parents who were doing anything within their capacity to provide their children with a safe learning environment. They discovered that most of the parents were struggling to pay tuition and decided to support them financially.


From supporting one school, the DeVos began to think about education. In 1990, Dick was elected to the State Board of Education in Michigan and Betsy became more involved. She began a foundation that gave scholarships to children from needy families, giving them an opportunity to choose the school of their choice. However, she discovered that the scholarship could not reach every person, hence need for a more radical approach.


In the 1990s, Betsy worked with boards of two national charities that worked towards expanding the education choice. Together with her husband, Betsy played a key role in the passing of the first charter-school bill in Michigan in 1993. Consequently, she got an opportunity to be more active in the education-choice movement. In 2000, they were unsuccessful in their desire to change the state constitution to license tax-credit scholarships. Between 2001 and 2002, they became so successful in their work in Michigan that their friends thought it was important to do it at the national level.


She became the chair of All Children Matter, a political organization started by her husband and the late John Walton. More school-choice supporters joined and educated the public on the importance of greater educational choice. To ensure smooth management of their activities, they formed the American Federation for Children (AFC).


Betsy has been able to support the activities of AFC, ArtPrize, and the West Michigan Aviation Academy among others through Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. The foundation supports groups in five categories, namely society, education, arts, equity, and governance.


Betsy has also been involved in politics for over three decades. In 1976, she was a volunteer for President Gerald R. Ford. She has served in various Republican leadership roles, mainly on education choice and change. Between 1992 and 1998, she served as a member of the Republican National Committee. From 1996 to 2005, she was the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.