New Secretary of Education’s Philanthropy Comes Under Critical Spotlight
The DeVos family is one of the most prominent politically active families in the country. They donate a lot of money to the conservative political causes they support. First and foremost is school choice. That recently resulted in President Trump nominating Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. According to their political opponents, they use their donations just to advance their political agenda. Recently MLive took a closer look at the family’s history of contributions. They found that the family’s charitable giving dwarfs the money they do donate to outright charities that work directly to improve the lives of recipients. Also, the article found, the couple are famous for donating without attaching conditions to how the money must spent. There are exceptions, but only when the couple insists on something that makes the difference. For instance, they contributed to the Spectrum Health Foundation to recruit one of the country’s top childhood cancer doctors. That resulted in an improvement rate for children treated for neuroblastoma at the Helen DeVos’ Children’s Hospital.
The family does donate a lot of money to education, especially to schools. They financed their own charter high school, the West Michigan Aviation Academy. Its graduation rate is 86%. Out of the graduating class, 15 were licensed pilots. It stands on the ground of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. They also help the school’s annual fundraiser succeed with guests not seen at a typical high school rally: former President George W. Bush and Apollo astronauts. 40% of the student body are minorities. One-third of them qualify as economically deprived. 40% are minorities. The DeVos family also supports the Potter House Christian School in Grand Rapids. That is where they first became inspired to support education directly and politically through bringing about school choice. And Betsy DeVos has served as a mentor to students at the school.
They also support civic organizations, the arts and churches, including the popular Chicago church Willow Creek. Forbes magazine estimates they have donated a total of $139 million total over the years.
Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway. He began his business career packing boxes of Amway products at his childhood home. He became an official employee at the company in 1974. In 1984 he became a vice-president in charge of expanding the company’s operations to other countries. During his time, he increased foreign profits of the company from just 5% to 50%. He spent time in charge of the Orlando Magic, then went on to serve as president of Amway, succeeding his father. He left that position to handle his own private business, the Windquest Group. He owns various businesses, including the Green Machine, which converts waste heat into electricity. In 2006 he ran for governor of Michigan, but lost the general election.