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Betsy DeVos’ Mother’s Brief Stint as a Public School Teacher: Some Details

March 31, 2017

In her US Department of Education (USDOE) bio, US ed sec Betsy DeVos advertises that her mother was “a public school teacher”:

Secretary DeVos has been involved in education policy for nearly three decades as an advocate for children and a voice for parents. She is especially passionate about reforms that help underserved children gain access to a quality education.

DeVos’ interest in education was sparked at an early age by her mother, a public school teacher.

I heard DeVos make a similar, *my mother taught public school* statement during her confirmation hearings. However, as is true in her USDOE bio, DeVos offered no additional details.

So, I went searching for some.

The December 15, 1953, Holland, Michigan, Evening Sentinel, a newspaper from DeVos’ home town, carries the following article:

School Board Approves Four New Teachers

Hiring of four new teachers for the public schools was approved by the Board of Education at its monthly meeting Monday night.

Miss Elsa Zwiep of Holland will teach early elementary classes starting next semester succeeding Mrs. Joyce Brieve who requested a release in order to join her husband on the west coast. Miss Zwiep is a graduate of Christian High School and will be graduated from Calvin College early in 1954 with an A.B. degree.

 (Click image to enlarge)

The details of Zwiep’s 1953-54 mid-year hire were again publicized in the January 20, 1954, Sentinel.

 (Click image to enlarge.)

Zwiep’s degree from Calvin College was in sociology, not elementary education.

In August 1953, Zwiep became engaged to DeVos’ father, Edgar Prince. The couple was married March 27, 1954. The Zwiep-Prince wedding announcement (March 29, 1954 Sentinel) identifies the public school at which Zwiep taught as Longfellow School.

A November 2013 Sentinel article honoring Elsa Zwiep Prince Broekhuizen (Edgar Prince died in 1995; Elsa remarried in 2000) comments on how long DeVos’ mother was in the public school classroom:

Prince Broekhuizen went on to attend Calvin College, taught elementary school for a few years and enjoyed being a homemaker while supporting her late husband, Edgar, in his die cast machine business.

Given the above info about “a few years” in the classroom, and given that DeVos was not born until January 1958, it is not likely that Elsa Zwiep was a public school teacher when DeVos alive, let alone old enough to remember it.

And, of course, DeVos herself did not attend Longfellow Elementary School. DeVos did not attend public school. Otherwise, she surely would have included such info on her USDOE bio.

Instead, DeVos must rely upon once-removed contrivances in order to connect herself to the public school classroom– a place that she has no real use for but must connect to in order to federally peddle school choice.

Indeed, most of her USDOE bio is devoted to pitching school choice.

But she does toss sketchy, token allegiance to public school, as evidenced by her reluctance to detail even her own mother’s (brief) involvement as a public school teacher.

How many strikes of the keyboard would it take for DeVos to add a sentence, “DeVos’ mother, Elsa Zwiep, taught public school for a few years at Longfellow School in Holland, Michigan, in the 1950s.”?

It takes 120 characters– fewer than the maximum length of a tweet.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Betsy Devos

  1. Leigh Campbell-Hale permalink

    Great research. You rock.

  2. Zorba permalink

    I don’t even know why DeVos mentioned this about her mother.
    Heck, my father was a general supervisor in a steel fabrication plant for decades, but that doesn’t mean I know the least little thing about manufacturing products from steel.

  3. Greg B permalink

    Excellent. Another example of how bloggers are the only real journalists who cover education issues. Those in the media are too lazy and privileged to actually ask questions and do their jobs.

  4. The entire history of Holland Public Schools is one of a once-proud, high-functioning public school system that served families for a century, then succumbed to privatization and white flight, led by a handful of industrialists and business interests and motivated by pointless fear. This is where I grew up–in the 1960s and 1970s, Holland schools were highly regarded. The DeVos family has been chipping away at them for four decades.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Betsy DeVos’ Mother Taught at a Public School That Is Now Closed | deutsch29
  2. Mercedes Schneider Explains Why Betsy DeVos Never Mentions the School Where Her Mother Briefly Taught | Diane Ravitch's blog

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