Public Versus Private Persona of Betsy DeVos

There is more to Betsy DeVos, education secretary to President Donald Trump, than meets the eye. In public appearances she presents a united front with President Trump, but behind the scenes she continues to fight for her ideals. That includes the issue of which bathrooms transgender students are allowed to use in schools.


When President Trump chose to overturn an Obama-era federal policy that allowed students to choose the bathroom they used based on their gender identity, DeVos spoke publicly in support of that decision at the Conservative Political Action Conference. However, there were reports that she had actually fought against quashing the policy. She confirmed those reports when she spoke with a selected member of the Education Department’s gay and transgender employees. An aide to DeVos told the employee that she had indeed disagreed with the President’s decision and had tried to prevent it.


DeVos is a complicated individual who is widely known as an ardent supporter of school choice and charter schools. She has traveled to visit a wide variety of schools, from public schools to private Christian schools to a charter school that was started by Pitbull, the rapper. Pitbull’s charter school is located in Florida, a state that DeVos has publicly lauded for its commitment to and success with school choice.


While DeVos has many personal connections with Florida and clearly holds it in high esteem, her home state is Michigan. She is known there for her determination when it comes to engaging in political battles. That determination, combined with her family’s wealth, gained her a position as a Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman and made her a staunch advocate for charter schools. While her public amiability may give her the appearance of a political pushover, those who know her say that is not the case at all.


DeVos spent her early life in Holland, Michigan, where her father founded an auto parts company. Edgar Prince turned that company into a billion-dollar business and used that money to support conservative Christian issues. He also sent DeVos to private school, and she in turn did the same with her own children. Opponents cite this as a problem with making her education secretary since she does not have an understanding of or connections with public schools.


With DeVos’ fierce advocacy and political effectiveness, Detroit has a higher concentration of charter schools than anywhere else in the country. However, these schools are fraught with problems such as poor performance and more supply than demand.


One aspect of DeVos’ life that puts her at a disadvantage in her position as education secretary is her lack of experience in Washington. That may have contributed to her lack of success in fighting for transgender bathroom choice. She was up against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, someone who has extensive experience and numerous connections in Washington.


Despite her rocky start, there are many people who view DeVos as a force to be reckoned with once she gets the hang of her position. That includes Democrats as well as her fellow Republicans.


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