Education secretary a philanthropist, activist

President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on Nov 18, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at Trump International Golf Club, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on Nov 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Mrs Betsy DeVos, Mr Donald Trump's pick as education secretary.

For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence.

A daughter of privilege, she also married into it; her husband Dick is heir to the Amway fortune. Like many education philanthropists, she argues that children's ZIP codes should not confine them to failing schools.

Mrs DeVos, 58, was born in western Michigan, the more conservative and religious part of the state, where her father created a successful auto parts company.

Her brother is Mr Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, the troubled private security contractor that was awarded billions in US government contracts in the Middle East.

She had not supported Mr Trump; her family was behind Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in the Republican presidential primary.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Education secretary a philanthropist, activist'. Print Edition | Subscribe