Betsy Devos and the Fight for School Choice

Betsy Devos and the Fight for School Choice

For Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, the fight for giving parents the right to choose their children’s school isn’t something new. It’s something that goes back many decades, to when she and her husband Dick had school-age children of their own.


It was then that the couple visited Potter’s House Christian School in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. For them it was a life-changing experience. They got to meet firsthand parents struggling to provide their children with the kind of high-quality education that their own public schools just couldn’t provide.


This wasn’t just a one-time visit fo the two. The couple kept going back and back, and there was one big truth they couldn’t avoid: because they had means they could send their children anywhere they wanted, but those without means couldn’t.


The two felt compelled to change this. This change began with helping individual children and grew into a movement.


While her husband got himself elected to the State Board of Education in 1990, Betsy started a foundation that provided scholarships for low-income families, so that they could attend schools of their own choice. But Betsy soon realized that this wasn’t enough. She realized that not only weren’t there enough scholarships available to serve all the children in need, but that they weren’t solving the core problem. The problem was that parents couldn’t decide how their school tax dollars were being spent.


While serving on the boards of both the American Education Reform Council and Children First America during the 1990s, Betsy tirelessly worked to expand school choice through tax credits and vouchers. She and Dick also played instrumental roles in passing a bill in 1993 that established charter schools in Michigan.


Even when she didn’t succeed, Betsy would use these failures as an impetus for even greater success. After failing to change the Michigan state constitution in 2000, to provide vouchers and tax credits for school choice, Betsy started the Great Lakes Education Project, which promoted expanding charter schools in Michigan. She then took fight for school choice national, with her work with the American Federation for Children.


What has been the outcome of her efforts?


Today 17 states and the District of Columbia have publicly funded school choice programs, which have been helping countless students from across the country attain a first-class education. Learn more: