Betsy DeVos, the notable philanthropist and wife of Dick DeVos, recently sat down for an interview with Philanthropy. In the talk, she answered questions about the shift in U.S. education. She commented that she was optimistic about the future. She pointed out that over 250,000 students have now been placed in private schools in over a quarter of states in the nation, including D.C. The reason, she gives, is that vouchers, educational savings accounts, and tax credits are making educational choice more possible for parents.
Betsy and Dick DeVos are certainly well versed in the world of educational improvement. The two recently donated a huge $90 million in just one year (2013). This helped education mostly, with other portions of the donation going to healthcare, community services, and faith-based clubs.
One of the shining accomplishments of their giving was when they helped initiate more leadership within the education system. The problem before was that minority and low income students weren’t attending enough classes. By helping teachers with sound strategies, they boosted attendance 30%.
Dick DeVos and his wife have co-chaired a group called the Education Freedom Fund for more than 25 years. This group provides scholarships in Michigan to low-income students. But just chairing it wasn’t enough for DeVos. He matched a whopping $7.5 million donation made by the Children’s Scholarship Fund.
Their legacy of philanthropic efforts in education extend to helping parents access great education for their kids. Kids First was chaired by the DeVos family and it focuses on helping students get the money they need to complete their college education, as well as contributing to charter schools. Former recipients of the aid of the DeVos couple often express immense gratitude in public. Students who would have suffered in poor public education systems have been given an opportunity to rise above their current status to something of their true ambitions.
While Dick DeVos and his wife have certainly cemented their name in the history books of charitable giving to education, they also help in other ways as well. For instance, they pushed forward something called Grand Action. This brings together leaders in Detroit to build the downtown into a better place, combining public and private resources. They have also directly helped people access social programs, get food, healthcare, and even jobs. One of their success stories was able to go from living broke and homeless on the streets without anywhere to stay, to having an apartment in a month.