Betsy DeVos, nominee for education secretary.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
The unofficial motto of a public charter school co-founded by Betsy DeVos — President-elect Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Education — could be “No Pilot Left Behind.”
Nearby a small maintenance hangar that’s part of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the school’s two Cessna 172 airplanes chugs down the tarmac of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school is based on the airport’s grounds, just outside Grand Rapids.
Besty DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, led the effort to create this charter high school and got it off the ground — literally — in 2010. They donated the first Cessna. Delta Airlines’ foundation donated the second.
But few other Michigan charters have billionaire founder patrons and A-list connections. The school’s annual fundraising gala has included Apollo 13 astronauts as well as former president George W Bush and other luminaries.
The school’s principal, Patrick Cywayna, says there’s a long waiting list to attend this tuition-free, nonprofit high school. “I think the word choice says it all,” he says. “The philosophy of our school from Dick and Betsy, obviously, is to provide opportunities for all kids. So the word opportunity and choice to me go hand in hand.”