Betsy DeVos (AP/Susan Walsh)

Report finds that people who work in the DeVos family office have some pretty odd responsibilities

Their expenses include people to help their children discard outgrown clothing or throw away broken toys


Matthew Rozsa
November 9, 2017 6:25PM (UTC)

Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump, is now the target of ridicule due to a new report that reveals the absurd degree to which her family has gone to maintain a pampered lifestyle.

The specifics of how DeVos family members use their wealth for their family office have been revealed by a series of disclosures which she filed since she was nominated as Secretary of Education, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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The list included a household administrative assistant to "assist teen to review clothing and remove outgrown items" and "assist teen with identifying list of clothing and personal items to pack for travel." It also included a property manager to "ensure doors are well-oiled to avoid squeaking" and "ensure . . . broken toys repaired or disposed of," a personal assistant to help the DeVoses build a Chrismas card list and suggest gift ideas, an associate captain to help orchestrate their family yacht scheduling and a boat maintenance assistant to help with food, beverages and entertainment.

Family offices are quite common and are used to help super-rich families not only manage their investments, but take care of the day-to-day details of their ordinary lives. Of course, when the extent to which they pay for little things is illuminated by the clear light of day, it looks more than a little silly.

Although they weren't listed in their disclosure forms, the DeVos family also owns a 164-foot boat named Seaquest, which is one of at least 10 boats owned by the family. They also own at least four planes and two helicopters.

DeVos has been widely perceived as ineffective at the job and frustrated by the struggles she has encountered in trying to implement her policy goals. During her confirmation hearing, she claimed that one public school needed guns to protect its students from grizzly bears, seemed unfamiliar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and was unable to answer a question about whether test scores should be used to measure student proficiency or student growth.

In her post as head of the Department of Education, DeVos has struggled to grow into her position. Employees in the department have described her as incompetent and reluctant about seeking major changes as she has learned more about the complexity and difficulty of her position. She has repeatedly complained about the stifling bureaucracy that she faces in her job. When Trump first nominated DeVos, her supporters shared her conviction that she could implement sweeping changes which would further her goal of passing school vouchers; her critics, similarly, were terrified about the scope of her impending powers. Both sides did not anticipate that she would struggle with being perceived as impotent rather than as radical.

According to Politico:

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Everyone except for her. DeVos is currently undertaking an administration-mandated review of the department, from the top down, hunting for inefficiency and excess. From what she has seen so far, DeVos tells me she will recommend a “significantly lighter footprint.” This hints at what some career employees fear: that the new secretary wants to eliminate entire offices within the department, which would both lighten her bureaucratic burden and free up resources for lawmakers to potentially redirect toward her ultimate objective: expanding school choice. For now she has taken a narrower tack, rolling back Obama-era regulations governing higher ed and using her megaphone to preach the gospel of free-market education. Accomplishing any version of her life’s mission—disrupting the K-12 system—hinges on whether she can persuade Congress to alter its model for funding education policy nationwide. And in her first try, earlier this year, she failed.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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