Culture & the Family

Jonathan Small | May 25, 2021

DeVos never forgot to put children first

Jonathan Small

In a late 2020 interview with Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, conducted as Betsy DeVos was nearing the end of her tenure as federal Secretary of Education for President Donald Trump, Hess asked DeVos for an anecdote that captured the experience.

DeVos responded, “I remember talking with a group of young African American students in a school where they were benefiting from the Milwaukee voucher program and looking outside at a sea of middle-aged white protestors who apparently thought those students didn’t deserve that opportunity. I think that’s a pretty good microcosm of what my experience in office was like.”

Unlike her detractors, DeVos never forgot to place students first in policy debates. That’s why OCPA chose DeVos, pictured above with Gov. Kevin Stitt and OCPA president Jonathan Small, as this year’s recipient of our organization’s Citizenship Award.

That award is provided to those who make great contributions to our state and nation. It’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving than DeVos. Thanks to her leadership and hard work—which long preceded her time in Washington—the lives of countless children have been changed for the better through school choice and the conversation on education today is increasingly child-focused.

To her credit, DeVos stayed in the thick of the battle when others would have retreated to the sidelines. Her detractors were both unreasonable and relentless and remain so. Nonetheless, DeVos gave her all to help children whose opportunities in life will be severely limited without a quality education.

DeVos has devoted decades to that effort. She has been active in politics for more than 35 years with education a major focus for the last 28 years.

DeVos served as chair of the American Federation for Children, an organization that seeks to increase school-choice options nationwide, including everything from homeschooling to public charter schools to state-funded scholarships for private schools.

When Trump asked her to be his secretary of education, she did not flinch. At the time, DeVos declared, “The status quo is not acceptable. I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world.”

DeVos was an innovator, a disruptor, and an advocate before she went to Washington. And she did not change her stripes after joining the Trump administration.

Among other things, DeVos championed Education Freedom Scholarships, a proposal to provide $5 billion in federal tax credits for individual-and-business contributions to state non-profit Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs).

Few people have done more to increase educational opportunity for children of all backgrounds. And fewer still have made such contributions while under unrelenting attack.

DeVos showed that one person with backbone can make a difference. When one finds a true public servant like DeVos, we should not only praise her, but join her in the fight.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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