Five faith facts about new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

First Published      Last Updated Feb 07 2017 11:51 am

The position for which Betsy DeVos has been confirmed — secretary of education — is one of the least powerful in the Cabinet, in terms of its budget and position in the line of succession to the presidency.

And yet, after a confirmation hearing in which she struggled to answer questions, some Senate offices had received more calls opposing DeVos than any other Cabinet nominee.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote Tuesday to confirm the businesswoman and philanthropist as education secretary. It is the first time a vice president has cast the deciding vote on a Cabinet nominee.

DeVos is the chairwoman of Michigan-based investment and management firm The Windquest Group. She has been active in politics for more than 35 years, according to her website; most recently, her focus has been on school choice.

Here are five faith facts about DeVos:

1. DeVos has roots in the Christian Reformed tradition.

DeVos grew up in the Christian Reformed Church and graduated from schools affiliated with the tradition: Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Mich., and Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Christian Reformed Church, formed by Dutch immigrants settling the Midwest in the 1800s, grew out of Dutch Calvinism — splitting from the older Reformed Church in America in the 1850s. One of the churches' disagreements was about education: The Reformed Church in America viewed schooling as the responsibility of the government, while the Christian Reformed Church viewed it as the responsibility of the family.

But, Abram Van Engen pointed out at Religion & Politics, the Christian Reformed Church says nothing about vouchers or charter schools, and it never has threatened public education.

Most recently, DeVos has been a member and elder at Mars Hill Bible Church, the nondenominational, evangelical Christian church founded by popular author Rob Bell in Grandville, Mich.

2. DeVos supports school vouchers — the use of public money to send children to private schools, including religious schools.

DeVos has supported expanding charter schools and school vouchers, both as an advocate and as a philanthropist. Vouchers allow students to take taxpayer dollars with them to private schools. That includes religious schools.

Vouchers are popular with conservative Christians, and Pence had expanded taxpayer-funded vouchers, as well as charter schools, when he was Indiana's governor.

Laura Turner explained that support in Politico:

"Her support for charter schools has roots in the cozy relationship among Republicans, Christianity and the business world, which have been aligned for decades in support of individualism and, by extension, industry deregulation."

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