Unless you're from Michigan, you probably hadn't heard of Betsy DeVos, our new secretary of education. That's because until this week, she was spending most of her time doing shady billionaire shit like shoveling money into campaigns to pass "right-to-work" (under terrible conditions) and public school privatization laws in her home state.
DeVos, nee Prince, married into the Amway family fortune, which makes her a perfect choice for Trump, who has dabbled in several alleged pyramid schemes over his long and illustrious career. According to Mother Jones, which profiled the House of DeVos back in 2014, the extended family has collectively donated more than $200 million to conservative causes over the years. Also, Betsy's brother is Erik Prince, the renegade war profiteering founder of the private military firm Academi (formerly Blackwater). Their dad, Edgar Prince, helped found the far-right Christian organization the Family Research Council.
But it would be unfair to suggest that DeVos hasn't earned the nomination in her own right. Along with her husband, Richard DeVos, she founded the investment management firm Windquist Corp, where she serves as chairwoman. She has spent decades in the trenches of the far right and has long been in the vanguard of the school privatization movement. She backed Michigan's first charter-school legislation, which passed in 1993, and she's been working in the privatization mines ever since.
Along the way, she supported a failed campaign to bring school vouchers to Michigan and served as chair of the state GOP. Currently, she chairs the board of Americans for Children, a major pro-privatization lobbying group. In the most recent election cycle, she and Richard gave more than $1.5 million to conservative political action committees, including $400,000 to the PAC that backed Little Marco Rubio. They don't seem to have donated to Trump, but I guess he got over it.
Dana Goldstein, writing at Slate, predicts that a DeVos Education Commissariat would move to strip down the already-bare bones of our nation's public schools, pushing for voucher programs that would give parents money to send their kids to private schools, including for-profit schools. She would also push for the deregulation of charter schools, which already have far less oversight than traditional public schools. (Just one reason they are troubled by astronomical rates of suspension, susceptible to administrative fraud, and harsh treatment of students.) Also, the teachers don't have union protections, although who cares about teachers?
Pro-charter liberals-ish may find common cause with DeVos in the push to privatize our schools, which can be expected to ultimately hurt the most vulnerable—the poor, and especially people of color, the most. To the extent that they get in bed with DeVos, we'll be able to see who they really are, "kill the poor, sell off their houses" and all that. We know that Eva Moskowitz didn't want the job, though apparently not for any concern about Trump himself. (She has to "keep her eye" on Mayor Bill de Blasio here in NYC).
So that's Betsy DeVos. If her record scares you, though, take heart: Donald Trump really knowns his stuff when it comes to education.