Dick DeVos is widely known for his involvement in Republican politics. This is an association that he can hardly do anything about. His wife, Betsy DeVos, has been one of the key figures in the Michigan Republican Party for more than 30 years. And she currently serves as the U.S. Secretary of Education under the Trump Administration. Additionally, DeVos himself ran for the governorship of Michigan in 2006, only narrowly being defeated by the highly popular incumbent governor, Jennifer Granholm.
Because of these considerations, DeVos, for better or worse, has cemented his image in the public mind as a career politician who is heavily involved in Republican causes. But the truth is that DeVos, who really isn’t all that partisan, has only spent a vanishing fraction of his entire career on political matters of any kind. Around his home state of Michigan, DeVos is known for his many other major accomplishments, including his spectacularly successful business career, his gigantic personal investments in the redevelopment of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and his lifelong, intense interest in reforming education, especially the aspects that affect the least privileged American kids.
It is in this last area that DeVos has realized some of his greatest accomplishment. Yet, he has received very little attention or praise for his groundbreaking work in the education field. This is surprising because some of the schools that DeVos has personally been involved with creating, designing and financing have become the models around which the majority of charter schools are built upon today.
One example is his West Michigan Aviation Academy. This is a high-school-level specialty academy that focuses students on careers in the aviation business. Aside from the incredible fact that DeVos was personally heavily involved in the design of every aspect of the school, including the curriculum, the West Michigan Aviation Academy has racked up an incredible track record. The school has recruited from some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the area, taking kids that would have otherwise gone to some of the worst-performing schools in the state. And it has routinely shaped those underprivileged students into top-flight scholars.
Along with many other DeVos-backed schools, the West Michigan Aviation Academy has proven that kids from some of the poorest neighborhoods can achieve at the same level as those students hailing from the richest areas. And while this has negative implications for the state of public education, it provides a great beam of hope for struggling minority youth.
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