In 1991, a master plan made its way into the Grand Rapids news about building a multi-purpose sports and convention arena near the downtown area. During this period. Dick DeVos was preparing to take on a chief operating officer position at Amway Corporation.
Dick lobbied against the plan because he had grave concerns that the arena would have an unfavorable impact on downtown Grand Rapids. Because of his public campaign, the Grand Action Group was born. This organization included entrepreneurs responsible for constructing various commercial buildings, including the Grand Rapids City Market and the DeVos Place Convention Center.
Dick and Betsy DeVos made many attempts to change policies. The couple is a GOP mega-donor famous for having great political power in changing education and labor regulations. Betsy DeVos expanded charter schools. Dick DeVos created a 2012 law requiring Michigan union-oriented companies to convert to right-to-work businesses.
The conservative Republican couple donates large sums of money to charitable organizations. During a period encompassing 16 years, the couple made substantial donations to churches, the arts and education reform issues. The couple also gave away scholarships for students who wanted to attend private schools. In 2006, the couple donated $12.5 million to construct a new children’s hospital.
As an experienced airplane pilot, Dick DeVos wanted to establish an aviation charter high school. As part of the Grand Rapids International Airport, the charter school began with a phone call to the chief operating officer at AirTran Airways. Southwest Airlines later purchased AirTran Airways.
Dick convinced management at Southwest Airlines to offer direct flights for passengers wishing to travel to St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver and Orlando. His idea for an aviation academy came to fruition in 2010 with West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Betsy DeVos mentioned that she and her husband were on the same path regarding education reform and philanthropic endeavors. She said they both want to help underprivileged children have equal educational opportunities. But voters did not approve their education reform amendment to help students attend private schools via tax-funded vouchers mandated by the government.
However, the couple persevered until 24 states, along with the District of Columbia, approved school vouchers. Betsy’s wish to reform the educational system led to her appointment as the U.S. Secretary of Education by President Donald Trump. Her approval was not without controversy among some senators.
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