The DeVos’ Impact on Michigan

The impact that Dick and Betsy DeVos have had on their home state of Michigan is no small matter. They both have established themselves as political heavyweights in the state, especially when it comes to the issue of school choice. Their lobbying campaigns have impacted state laws and affected educational policies.


Both Dick and Betsy come from wealthy Michigan families. As adults, they have used that wealth to donate vast amounts of money, primarily to Republican and conservative Christian causes. This has gained them influential power in the political arena.


The makeup of Grand Rapids, Michigan may owe its structure in part to Dick DeVos and his 1991 campaign to prevent the building of a sports and convention center near downtown. He feared that this center would have a negative effect on the downtown area and worked hard to lobby against its creation. This led to the development of a group of business leaders known as Grand Action. That group is credited with inspiring the construction of an arena, convention center, performance hall, and medical school in Grand Rapids, changing the layout of the city.


That was only the start of Dick DeVos’ plans for political involvement in Michigan. Together with Betsy, he founded the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. The foundation has given over $138 million to churches, human services, scholarships, and education reform.


Education, particularly school choice, has become DeVos’ focus. Grand Rapids International Airport now hosts an aviation charter school that was founded by Dick DeVos. He also sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have allowed students to attend private school through the use of vouchers, but it fell through. The DeVos’ worked on pushing through the voucher idea in other parts of the country and were successful in 24 states.


While Betsy DeVos has been appointed U.S. Secretary of Education, Dick has worked on his own political aspirations. In 2006 he ran for governor of Michigan, losing to Jennifer Granholm. More recently, in 2017, he was appointed to the Management Advisory Council of the Federal Aviation Administration. His experience as a pilot along with the founding of the aviation charter school helped lead him to this position. He also was instrumental in efforts to improve the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition to this 3-year volunteer position, DeVos serves as the CEO of his own holding company, The Windquest Group.


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