President-elect Donald Trump announced his plans on Wednesday to appoint billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education, despite concerns about her qualifications and her agenda.
“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said of DeVos, according to Washington Blade. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”
Not everybody is pleased with his controversial choice, however.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the 58-year-old heiress, who belongs to one of the most politically powerful families in the nation.
1. Betsy DeVos married into the DeVos family, owners of the $5.1 billion multi-level marketing sales company Amway. She is also heir to her own family fortune from her family’s auto parts business.
Trump's picked huge Koch donor club member, billionaire Amway heiress Betsy Devos, as Education Sec. Drain the swamp?
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) November 23, 2016
Trump Picks Betsy DeVos, Daughter-In-Law Of Billionaire Amway Cofounder, For Education Secretary https://t.co/JUl15NigYO
— Andrea & Ed (@r3aled) November 25, 2016
2. DeVos has never attended a public school or university and her children have never attended public schools. In addition, she does not have an education degree or experience teaching in schools, leading many to question her qualifications for heading the Department of Education.
Honest question, @BetsyDeVos: What specific work experience qualifies you for the position of Secretary of Education?
— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) November 25, 2016
— David ???????? ????️???????? (@davidpsdem) November 24, 2016
3. She did not support Donald Trump during the primary. DeVos told Detroit News that she had “misgivings” about Trump.
“There have clearly been a lot of things that have been said that give me serious pause for thought,” she said. “But on the other hand, when I consider the alternative, that is not attractive either.”
DeVos, who supported Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in the primary, told the Washington Examiner that she considered Trump an “interloper” and did not think he represented the Republican Party.
“I continue to be very optimistic that as we get further along into the process, the more voters know about him, and the more informed they are, the more they’re going to continue to break away.”
“The more people understand the totality of Donald Trump and what he stands for,” she continued, “I am confident and convinced they are going to look to an alternative to support.”
Betsy DeVos was A BIG RUBIO FAN. She and her husband, Dick, together gave $300,000 to a super PAC supporting Rubio, federal records show.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) November 23, 2016
4. Her younger brother, Erik D. Prince, founded Blackwater, the troubled private security contractor that was awarded billions in United States government contracts in the Middle East. In 2007, Blackwater came under public scrutiny when some of its guards shot and killed 17 civilians in Iraq.
— Mom (@Peacepox) November 9, 2014
5. Washington Post reports that DeVos has “quietly helped change the education landscape in many states,” spending millions of dollars to convince lawmakers to expand voucher programs that give taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools. Trump has said that he supports school choice and funding tax dollars away from the “government-run monopoly” of public schools.
Teachers’ unions and many democrats fear that DeVos’s plans will have devastating effects on already-strapped public schools and the students who depend on them.
America as about to find out just how terrifying the choice of Betsy DeVos for Education Sec is. Bye-bye, public ed. https://t.co/MicHHCKqoS
— Chris Savage (@Eclectablog) November 24, 2016
6. She is an outspoken activist and donor to pro-life causes, according to National Right to Life News Today.
“President-Elect Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to serve as education secretary continues to show that he is committed to building a pro-life administration,” said Darla St. Martin, Co-Executive Director of National Right to Life. “Betsy DeVos, and her husband Dick, have long been dedicated supporters of the right-to-life cause.
— LifeNews.com (@LifeNewsHQ) November 23, 2016
Betsy Devos' dad was a founder of the Family Research Council, arguably the most well known pro-life, 'pro-marriage' organization.
— Nick (@Politic_Nick) November 23, 2016
7. She claims that she is not a supporter of Common Core standards, even though she has been a member of organizations that pushed the controversial educational standards.
“Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course,” she wrote on her website, “but that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.”
That said, Medium reports that President-elect Trump’s transition team said the meeting with DeVos “focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.” Some are theorizing that there may be an effort to achieve the standards’ goals without using the much-maligned Common Core name, a plan that many states have chosen as they lightly revised the standards and simply renamed them to court public support.
Many of you are asking about Common Core. To clarify, I am not a supporter—period. Read my full stance, here: https://t.co/qB2nAXvX0B
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) November 23, 2016
8. Her family has had a large influence on American politics. In addition to donating millions of dollars to Republican candidates, she is also a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
Progress Michigan slammed the news of Betsy DeVos’s appointment to Secretary of Education in a news release Wednesday.
“The DeVos family has been using their deep pockets to influence the Michigan legislature for years and it looks like they have finally bought their way into a presidential administration as well.”
— JoJo (@adjunctprofessr) November 23, 2016
Trump has picked GOP mega donor Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Here's our statement: https://t.co/2Ove9Is69g
— Progress Michigan (@ProgressMich) November 23, 2016
9. She and her family have lobbied against LGBTQ rights legislation and have given large donations to groups that opposed marriage equality. Washington Blade reports that Betsy and her husband led the effort to create and pass an anti-gay marriage amendment in Michigan in 2004, and contributed more than $200,000 to the campaign. They also contributed $100,000 in 2008 to help pass a Florida amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
The DeVos family also donated $800,000 to Focus on the Family, one of the most well-funded anti-LGBTQ organizations in the U.S., according to Political Research, and the family donated $300,000 in 2013 alone to Michigan’s Bethany Christian Services, an adoption agency that lobbied for a religious exemption bill that gives adoption agencies the right to claim a religious exemption from having to serve LGBTQ couples. The family has a history of donating large sums of money to quite a few other organizations that campaign against LGBTQ rights.
Betsy DeVos, who has anti-gay past, tapped as education secretary https://t.co/b1154hmIae
— Washington Blade (@WashBlade) November 24, 2016
— Brad (@_woodenshoe) November 23, 2016
10. Betsy DeVos bragged that her family was “the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party,” Sourcewatch reports. In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos openly admitted that her family donated millions to Republican candidates in order to influence government.
“I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” she wrote. “Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues.”
— Michael Barba (@mdbarba) November 23, 2016
It remains to be seen how she will use her new influence as Secretary of Education.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]