Her interest in the field began over 30 years ago when she and her husband, Dick, visited the Potter’s Home Christian School, a school for low-income children in Grand Rapids. She was very impressed with the atmosphere, and they decided to help out. The couple decided to help those parents who were struggling to pay the tuition and later became more deeply committed financially.
Betsy was motivated by this visit to become a lifelong advocate for education reform. And Dick became inspired as well. He ran for and won a seat on the State Board of Education in 1990. Betsy and Dick were well-known philanthropists in Michigan, Dick being the son of the founder of the Amway Corporation. Betsy also was from a wealthy family.
She believed deeply in school choice. She worked to expand tax credits, vouchers, and charter schools. Politics also appealed to her, and she became chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. In 2001 and 2002, she was successful at promoting charter schools. She also wanted to educate the public about the benefits and persuade legislators to pass and implement reform.
Her efforts became national. She formed the Alliance for School Choice and a PAC to smoothly coordinate the effort. It was successful in various states, such as Florida, where there was much public and legislative support. Louisiana and Indiana also saw educational reform established through legislation.
Spreading the word about school choice was accomplished by ads on radio, billboards, mailings, phone calls, internet ads, and coordination with churches and community groups. In 2012, 5000 signed up in Louisiana for the new program.
Betsy believes that freedom is crucial for parents and children when it comes to education. And children should not be limited to schools in their zip code. She says that homeschooling is even a valid option, as well as magnet schools, charter schools, and virtual schools. Parents are fed up with not having the freedom to choose, she has said.
Success for Betsy means, “That …all students have had the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.”
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