When President Trump announced that he is recalling a federal policy that allows transgender students the use of bathrooms of their choice, Betsy Devos, the education secretary, who was present when the announcement was made, just silently submitted without issuing any opposition. Previously, she was known to fight for the rights of these students to have their personal choices honored by those in authority.
But before the President’s announcement, DeVos did something that is unexpected. She warned the Education Department employees who are transgender and gays that something is about to happen. And that something was President Trump’s announcement that adversely affected the choices of transgender students.
To the cursory observer, this incident might indicate that the new Department of Education Secretary is a push-over. But people close to DeVos say that they have a surprise coming. Although DeVos seemed to have quietly acquiesced with the wishes of the U.S. President, she only did so because of exigencies.
DeVos nature is to fight for the rights of those who are underprivileged. Those who know her claim that while she may appear gracious in public, she is a driven person who is relentless in fighting for what she thinks is right. They say that she has used the vast fortune of her family to punish enemies, reward allies and to work behind the scenes in passing legislations and in unseating lawmakers who are against her.
A former state attorney general and a Republican, Mike Cox, said that DeVos has instilled fear in many people in Michigan politics. He claims that her being a billionaire is not the only reason. Cox added that he finds DeVos to be very steely and very determined when she is trying to achieve a goal.
Another person who knows her, Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president who is a staunch Democrat supporter warns about the tendency of people to underestimate DeVos. It seems that Weingarten regards her as someone who appears plain-spoken and personable, but is actually dangerous.
DeVos has fought for three decades to channel public money to charter schools instead of the traditional public schools. Charter schools depend on tax dollars but are administered by private organizations that are operating outside of the structures of public schools. She also lobbied for tax money for vouchers for paying tuition fees at private and religious schools. But her detractors claim that charter schools is damaging to public education because it will eat on its resources. However, DeVos and her supporters say that this will enable poor families enough choices and will create competition that can pressure officials to improve traditional public schools.
DeVos has actually taken up this cause further than any of the advocates of charter schools. She gave her support to schools that are administered by commercial entities and opposed moves to require them to submit to performance standards. It is mainly because of DeVos’ efforts that Detroit is now enjoying the distinction of having the biggest concentration of charter schools in the country.
Follow Betsy DeVos on twitter.