“DeVos Wrong, East Hartford Strong!” That was the chant from more than 200 teachers, paraprofessionals, students, parents, and community members gathered on the front lawn of East Hartford High School this morning. The East Hartford community came together to protest remarks made by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos last week criticizing the East Hartford Public School System despite never having set foot in any of the district’s schools.
Emceeing the protest was Dr. John A. Langford Elementary School third-grade teacher and East Hartford Education Association President Annie Irvine, who said she was overwhelmed by the community response and grateful for the opportunity to “stand together and tell our collective story.” Irvine noted, “Mrs. DeVos has pointed out that she has no idea about the learning happening in our classrooms in East Hartford and across the country.”
CEA President Sheila Cohen echoed Irvine’s remarks, adding, “We are here this morning because we cannot ignore the inexcusable and unforgivable attacks against our public schools and against our students. Betsy DeVos’s uninformed assault on East Hartford Public Schools is reckless, and it is irresponsible.”
East Hartford students also lent their voices to the rally, having written letters to DeVos decrying her negative portrayal of their schools. Dozens of students biked, walked, and drove to school early and held up signs, chanting, “DeVos Wrong, East Hartford Strong!” Eleventh-grader Jadah Daley invited the Secretary of Education to visit and see for herself the outstanding work of public school teachers.
Joining the rally was U.S. Congressman John Larson, who graduated from the East Hartford Public Schools 50 years ago this June and worked there as a teacher. (His daughter currently teaches at East Hartford High School.) Larson encouraged students to continue writing letters to DeVos and pledged to personally hand-deliver every message. “East Hartford is symbolic of public education everywhere, so stand proud! You attack one of us, you attack all of us.”
Irvine, Cohen, Larson, and others implored their elected and appointed officials to support public education and provide the funding and resources students need to succeed.