EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Teachers, students and parents at a Connecticut high school on Tuesday protested remarks made by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who quoted a former student in calling the school “nothing more than adult day care … a dangerous day care.”
Connecticut Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy were among those at East Hartford High School who said DeVos was wrong about the school.
“You don’t know East Hartford,” said Larson, who graduated from the school five decades ago. “I think it’s only fitting when you stereotype a community, when you paint with a broad brush, and you’re the secretary of education, you have a responsibility to come out and meet these students.”
Malloy touted the school’s successes, including having the largest graduation rate increase in the state last year.
DeVos made the comments last week before a U.S. House subcommittee in defending Republican President Donald Trump’s plan to cut funding for public schools and higher education programs while promoting school choice. The plan includes providing federal tax money for private school scholarships.
DeVos said she met with a man who went to East Hartford High School and he told her students “ruled the classroom” and “it was an adult day care.” She identified him only as “Michael.”
“Michael got a diploma, but not an education,” DeVos said. “Michael’s story is important because there are literally millions of students in this country just like him. The system simply passes them along.”
U.S. Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said Tuesday that DeVos did not stereotype the school or community.
“She relayed one student’s experience and used his own words to describe the challenging circumstances he faced in high school,” Hill said in a statement. “He, like so many other students across the country, needed another option but didn’t have access to one.”
Local teachers took DeVos’ comments personally.
“You walk into our classrooms and see very dedicated professionals and students learning high quality level things,” said Annie Irvine, president of the local teachers’ union. “She (DeVos) should be our biggest supporter, and right now she’s our biggest adversary.”