Betsy DeVos wants to use America's schools to build "God's kingdom." She's about to get her chance. - 2017-01-17
Added Dick DeVos: "As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…[I]t is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education."
Indeed, critics argue the DeVoses are attempting to expand the definition of "school choice"—typically understood as giving parents the ability to pick any traditional public school or charter school in a district—to allow taxpayer money to follow students to any private school via vouchers. Some critics of school choice argue that charters, which are publicly funded but governed by appointed boards and often run by private companies with varying degrees of state oversight, can skim high-performing students from traditional public schools, leaving them with more high-needs kids and less money. But the push for so-called "universal school choice" could take that a step further by eventually leading to a radical redirection of funds from traditional public schools to private schools, many of which are Christian: Trump's signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our "failing government schools" and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools.
Although the DeVoses have rarely commented on how their religious views affect their philanthropy and political activism, their spending speaks volumes. Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation's tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents' charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. (Betsy DeVos was listed as a vice president of the Prince Foundation during those years, though she claimed at her confirmation hearing that this was "a clerical error.") During that period, the DeVoses spent nearly $100 million in philanthropic giving, and the Princes spent $70 million. While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.