In February 2017, a few hours before President Trump scrapped the Obama-era guidance on bathrooms for transgender students, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos felt the need to inform the department’s representative of gay and transgender employees what was coming.
It was widely reported that Mrs. DeVos had resisted the move, but this was made known only after Trump rescinded protections for transgender students. There were no obvious signs that she had opposed the move made by the Trump administration before the announcement, and in fact, was quoted saying that the guidelines prepared by the previous administration were “a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach.”
Could it be that Mrs. DeVos merely wanted to keep her publicly polite and gracious image?
Many people have observed the work of Mrs. DeVos through the years, having served as the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party before and a strong advocate of school vouchers and charter schools. She comes off as meek to those who hadn’t met her before, but in Michigan, the state where she was born and bred, people knew her as a relentless and driven political fighter, going as far as using her family’s wealth to punish enemies and reward those she deemed allies.
Republican Mike Cox says that Mrs. DeVos has managed to instill fear in Michigan politics, not just because of her vast family fortune, but also due to her hard and strong determination whatever she sets her mind into.
Born Elisabeth Dee DeVos, the Department of Education secretary is an heir to the affluent Prince family of Michigan. Before marrying Amway heir Dick DeVos, the young Betsy attended Calvin College and was largely raised in the Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. The wealthy couple has four adult children.
Together, Betsy and Dick have made generous contributions to various political causes. Mrs. DeVos, in particular, focused on the expansion of charter schools and the use of vouchers, in order to allow students to use public funding to pay for private education.
Her arrival in Washington caused quite a stir, considering she had no experience inside government and had no connections with the president whatsoever. This may be the fact why she was put at a disadvantage in her fight for transgender rights, having been pitted against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Washington-familiar former Senator who has strong ties with Trump.
She has her share of admirers and critics who upon her appointment agreed that Mrs. DeVos will eventually learn the ropes and create relationships along the way.
The American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) president Randi Weingarten notes of Mrs. DeVos as a person who is often underestimated. True enough, the secretary comes as rather plain-spoken and personable, but she can be dangerous, Ms. Weingarten said.
As Secretary of Education, one of Betsy DeVos’ first acts was to call the leaders of America’s teachers’ unions, Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the National Education Association and AFT’s Ms. Weingarten. Republican political strategist Greg McNeilly said that it was “a smart move” for the secretary to make, before adding the observatory remark “opposition only emboldens her.”
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