Betsy DeVos | Wikimedia
Betsy DeVos | Wikimedia

Despite con­fir­mation from politicos that Arnn was on Pres­ident-elect Donald Trump’s shortlist for sec­retary of edu­cation, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said he was put at ease when Trump ulti­mately chose Michigan native Betsy DeVos Nov. 23.

“I had various dis­cus­sions with various people along the way and thought [her selection] was likely,” Arnn said in an email to The Col­legian. “I was relieved.”

Although she may not be the pres­ident of Hillsdale College, DeVos does have strong ties through her family and finances to the institution.

The 58-year-old bil­lionaire phil­an­thropist, GOP donor, and fierce advocate for school choice and voucher pro­grams said in a statement after the announcement of her nom­i­nation that she is ready to “make American edu­cation great again.” Trump cited DeVos’ active GOP involvement and per­sistent edu­cation reform and school choice ini­tia­tives as the main reason behind his decision he chose her for edu­cation secretary. 

“Betsy DeVos is a bril­liant and pas­sionate edu­cation advocate,” Trump said in a press release. “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.”

Betsy DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the heir to the billion-dollar Amway cor­po­ration and 2006 Repub­lican nominee for Michigan gov­ernor. The DeVos family is known for its char­i­table giving. With a lifetime con­tri­bution of more than $1.2 billion to phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions, the family placed No. 20 on Forbes’ annual list of the top 50 givers in the country. Their roots in Michigan phil­an­thropy run deep and also intersect with Hillsdale College. 

Betsy DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, a 1992 graduate of Hillsdale College and the founder of the con­tro­versial private security firm Black­water Worldwide, now named Academi. In 2009, the DeVos family also founded Art­Prize, an inter­na­tional art com­pe­tition that fea­tured the work of five art pro­fessors and stu­dents this year.

Most notably, Richard DeVos, Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law, co-founded Amway with Jay Van Andel. Van Andel’s son, Steve, was a 1978 graduate of Hillsdale and cur­rently serves as the chairman of Amway. In 2013, after he donated to graduate school schol­ar­ships and oper­a­tions, Hillsdale named it’s graduate school of states­manship in his honor. 

Although Betsy DeVos pre­vi­ously didn’t hold a national presence, for years, she has been influ­ential in Michigan’s Repub­lican Party and edu­ca­tional reforms.

DeVos became involved with the state Repub­lican Party in 1982, later serving as its chair­woman from 2003 – 2005. During her tenure, she raised more than $150,000 on her own for Pres­ident George W. Bush’s re-election cam­paign and even held a cam­paign dinner for him at her Grand Rapid home. 

In 2003, DeVos started the All Children Matter PAC with her husband to promote school voucher pro­grams and can­di­dates who support them throughout the state. She has served on the boards of numerous school-reform ini­tia­tives, including the Alliance for School Choice, Advo­cates for School Choice, the American Edu­cation Reform Council, the Edu­cation Freedom Fund, Choices for Children, the Great Lakes Edu­cation Project, and the American Fed­er­ation for Children. 

DeVos’ appointment has numerous Repub­lican politi­cians throughout Michigan applauding Trump’s decision, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

“I com­pliment Pres­ident-elect Trump for his selection of Betsy DeVos as Sec­retary of Edu­cation,” Snyder said in a statement. “Michi­ganders know the passion Betsy has for reforming edu­cation in a way that puts kids first. Betsy’s appointment will mean great things for Michigan and for children around the nation as she takes her no-non­sense com­mitment to empow­ering parents to the highest levels in Washington.” 

Although DeVos’ appointment aligns with Trump’s cam­paign platform to expand school choice, her affil­i­a­tions with pro-Common Core orga­ni­za­tions sug­gests dis­agreement with Trump’s repeated stance against the con­tro­versial national aca­demic stan­dards. DeVos was a former board member of several pro-common core groups, including the Foun­dation for Excel­lence in Edu­cation, a group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that aimed at pro­moting school choice as well as Common Core.

DeVos took to her website and per­sonal twitter account to defend herself, and stated that she has never sup­ported common core. 

“Have orga­ni­za­tions that I have been a part of sup­ported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position,” DeVos wrote on her per­sonal website. “Some­times it’s not just stu­dents who need to do their homework.”

She solid­ified her stance and stated, “I am against Common Core — period.” 

But some national con­ser­v­a­tives remain skep­tical, decrying DeVos as sec­retary of edu­cation. Frank Cannon, pres­ident of anti-Common Core group American Prin­ciples Project, said in a statement leading up to the news of DeVos’ appointment that her affil­i­ation with Common Core makes her a very “Jeb Bush-like pick.” 

“This would not qualify as ‘draining the swamp,’” Cannon said. “And it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on edu­cation policy up to this point.”

While DeVos was Trump’s final pick for sec­retary of edu­cation, the Senate still need to approve her, after Trump is inaugurated. 

Arnn, who was endorsed by Parents against Common Core when his name was being con­sidered for sec­retary of edu­cation, said he doesn’t find her pre­vious stance prob­lematic and that he is sure she’ll do a great job as edu­cation secretary. 

“I very much approve of her,” Arnn said. “I’m very glad she has said what she has since her appointment on Common Core. I have not spoken with her, but I wrote her a note of congratulations.” 

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Collegian Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Novelly was born in Novi, Michigan, but was raised in Franklin, Tennessee, making him a self-proclaimed "Yankee gone South." Thomas began writing for The Collegian as a sophomore, and since has served as a reporter, columnist, and Assistant City News Editor. He has also worked for two major publications, interning at the Washington Free Beacon in D.C. and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has been seen in National publications such as CBS News, National Review Online, Stars And Stripes, and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.