Dick DeVos has always been one who practices what he preaches. Unsatisfied with the direction in which Michigan’s Republican Party was headed, DeVos decided that, in 2006, he would run for the governorship of the state. Although he narrowly lost to then-incumbent governor Jennifer Granholm, he demonstrated that compassionate conservatives still had a good chance of winning political contests in a state that has been heavily dominated by Democratic politics.
But DeVos has also been unafraid to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his ideas about the way education should be structured within the United States. Over the course of his philanthropic career, DeVos has given away more than $110 million to charitable causes, most of which have been centered around the area where he lives, West Michigan.
The extent of DeVos’ philanthropy was recently made public as a result of his wife, Betsy DeVos, being vetted for her post of Secretary of Education, to which she was appointed recently by president Donald Trump. One of the most striking aspects of DeVos’ philanthropy is the extent to which he has donated to local educational causes. Some of the institutions to which DeVos has contributed include Grand Valley State University Downtown Grand Rapids Campus, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Ferris State University, Northwood University, Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School and one of the more unique projects, West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter high school dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youth aeronautical science and other skills related to aviation.
DeVos has long been intensely interested in lifting up the most disadvantaged young people. DeVos has always believed that true equality should never be denied children, solely based on the zip code in which they are raised. To this end, he and his wife have financed a large number of charter schools and given significant sums to many more. One of these, the Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School, has helped thousands of some of the most disadvantaged young people in the state of Michigan overcome their economic hardships and become productive and highly educated citizens. It is through efforts like these that DeVos is doing much more than advocating for charter schools or other ideology-based positions. He is directly funding actual projects that are changing lives. Through these projects, DeVos has proven the concept of charter schools and demonstrated to the world that there are viable alternatives to the current failing public school system in the United States.
Many of DeVos’ critics actually come from the education sector themselves. But far from being honest, disinterested critics of an idea that they genuinely believe is flawed, many of DeVos’ most vehement critics are themselves employed by the education system, relying completely on its continuance for their livelihood. Many of these teachers and administrators know that they could not be hired at a performance-based charter school.