The DeVos family has long been known for its political activism. It has been associated with Republican causes and often vilified by Democrats and the progressive media as one of the party’s most important contributors. While it is true that the DeVos family has maintained strong support of the Michigan Republican party, its involvement in national politics has not been nearly as intense.
This began to change with the appointment of Betsy DeVos to the post of Secretary of Education. As part of her vetting process, the DeVos family was compelled to reveal the extent of its political contributions as well as the nature of its philanthropy. The DeVos family has long closely held its philanthropy to itself, shunning the limelight wherever possible and taking a generally inconspicuous approach to the ways in which it doles out its charitable contributions.
But through the process of disclosure associated with Betsy DeVos appointment appointment, it has come to light that the DeVos family has been one of the most prolific philanthropists in the state of Michigan. Many people assume that the DeVos family, in part due to Dick DeVos’ run for the governorship of Michigan in 2006, has largely focused its philanthropic activities around Republican centered causes. But the recent revelations paint a dramatically different picture.
In total, the DeVos family has given away more than $110 million. The vast majority of this money has been donated not to political causes but instead to local charities, including a great deal of money going to educational causes for disadvantaged children around the West Michigan area. It turns out that the DeVos family, long one of Michigan’s most dedicated supporters of charter schools, is not afraid to put its money where its mouth is.
While critics have accused Dick DeVos of being politically-motivated, even in his charitable contributions to charter schools, the actual numbers speak of a different tale. In the year 2015 alone, DeVos gave away over $11 million. Much of this money went directly to educational institutions around his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Among the recipients of DeVos’ largesse are Grand Valley State University Downtown Grand Rapids Campus, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Ferris State University and Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School. While DeVos’ contributions to these institutions over the years represent a significant source of all of their funding, one of the most important contributions, perhaps, that DeVos has made to the local West Michigan educational scene has been to development of West Michigan Aviation Academy, an alternative high school dedicated to teaching underprivileged students aeronautical science. The latter program has been a resounding success, proving the concept of charter schools and the idea that underprivileged students are as capable of high performance as any other group.