Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of Education, has compared her work in education reform to the battle of David and Goliath, and said she wants to "advance God's kingdom."
In an audio clip exclusively obtained by Politico, Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos Jr., revealed how their religion fuels their drive to reform public education.
The audio comes from the 2001 edition of a conference known as The Gathering, an annual meeting of some of the nation's most wealthy Christians. The DeVoses were interviewed about a failed Michigan ballot initiative that aimed to amend the state's constitution to allow public funds to be used on private and religious schools. The couple backed the initiative.
Betsy DeVos is also not exactly a friend to public education. An advocate of school choice, she believes government bodies should provide vouchers to parents who want to send their children to private schools but can't afford them. "We know that millions of children, mostly low-income and minority children, remain trapped in K-12 schools that are not meeting their needs," she said in September, when Trump released an education plan heavy on school choice, Politico reports. "We applaud the Trump campaign's focus on school choice and laying out common-sense proposals to help all children access a quality education."
In the audio clip from 2001, the couple described school choice as leading to "greater kingdom gain." They also commented on how public education has "displaced" the church as the center of communities, and they said that providing parents with school choice is one way to undo that displacement.
During their interview, the couple compared their work to the Shephelah, a region they learned about while on a trip to Israel. It was at the Shephelah where David and Goliath fought, and the DeVos couple compared their work in public education to that battle.
"Our desire is to be in that Shephelah, and to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God's Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory," said Betsy DeVos.
"We could run away and just go back up in the hills and live very safely and very comfortably -- or are we going to exist in the Shephelah and try to impact the view of the community around us with the ideas we believe are more powerful ideas of a better way to live one's life and a more meaningful and a more rewarding way to live one's life as a Christian?" said Dick DeVos. "Our job is to figure out in the contemporary context -- how do we get the pig bones out of our culture?"
Their talk does not touch on LGBT issues, but many observers acknowledge that Betsy DeVos's agenda at the Department of Education would likely benefit Christian schools, which usually take a conservative, anti-LGBT view of Christianity. Other members of the DeVos family have contributed to anti-LGBT causes; there have been conflicting reports about the work by Betsy DeVos and her husband in this arena.
Listen to an audio clip of DeVos, where she explains how reform can "advance God's Kingdom."