Dick DeVos: The Other Champion for Education Reform

In the early 90’s, the midwest city of Grand Rapids Michigan once considered building a sports/convention center arena north of its downtown area. It was former Amway CEO Dick DeVos who spearheaded the effort to quash that idea. The billionaire saw the negative effects to Detroit’s center when the Lions and Pistons left for the suburbs of Pontiac and Auburn Hills in the 70’s and 80’s and was concerned the same thing would happen in the town he was born in.


DeVos formed a group made up of business leaders called Grand Action. It’s mission was to make the central business district of Grand Rapids an cultural/entertainment/convention hub. They led efforts to build venues such as Van Andel Arena, a convention center, and a performance hall. The influence of Grand Action led Michigan State University Medical School to put a campus there. It was the efforts and vision of Dick DeVos that changed downtown Grand Rapids Michigan and kept it a vibrant civic, entertainment, and cultural center.


Richard “Dick” DeVos is one half of what must be considered a high profile power couple in the Trump era. His wife, Betsy DeVos, is Education Secretary in Trump’s cabinet. Dick DeVos (a longtime pilot) was recently tapped to join the top level citizen panel that provides oversight to the Federal Aviation Administration. The couple are stalwarts of the GOP and have been for decades. They have spent their sizable fortune and influence to advocate for conservative causes they believe in. It’s notable that from 1989 until 2015, their foundation gave nearly $140 million to churches, arts programs, scholarships and more.


While there are many worthy charities and programs to advocate for, one cause that has been consistently championed by both Dick and Betsy DeVos has been education reform. School vouchers and charter schools are the mainstays of that reform. The couple’s now grown children had the benefit of going to private schools because the couple had the resources to send them there. The couple believes that for parents who don’t have the resources, school vouchers gives their kids the ability to go to those same private schools.


Since both believe that giving parents options is key. Charter schools are another alternative from the traditional government funded public school. Betsy DeVos, prior to taking the job as Education Secretary, made charter schools in Michigan a viable alternative for parents. Ultimately, her vision is to make that alternative available nationwide. Dick DeVos, with his experience as a pilot, founded a charter school focused on aviation at the Grand Rapids International Airport.


While there have been some setbacks in their education reform initiatives (a DeVos sponsored amendment to the Michigan Constitution mandating the creation a school voucher program statewide failed to pass back in 2000), both Richard and Betsy DeVos have shown that they have the tenacity and willingness to adapt and act on their vision.


To learn more, visit http://dickdevos.com/news/.

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