Connecticut Education Association Statement

Students, Teachers, and Parents Stand Up for Public Education

Rally to protest assault on public schools

May 30, 2017


More than 200 students, teachers, and parents rallied outside of East Hartford High School today to stand up for public education and protest attempts to undermine public schools.

"Betsy DeVos's assault on East Hartford Public Schools is alarming, demoralizing, and unwarranted," said CEA President Sheila Cohen, "but it is not unexpected from a woman who is totally unqualified and unfit to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education, representing the nation's public education system." Cohen was referring to DeVos's recent comments disparaging East Hartford Public Schools, despite never having visited any schools in the district.

Cohen added, "The Secretary of Education should be the nation's leading advocate for public schools and the students who attend them—not their main antagonist."

Cohen joined her colleagues in condemning DeVos for continuing to insult the millions of professional educators who dedicate their lives to teaching and empowering students.

"We know that East Hartford teachers are passionate professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping their students succeed, and we will not stand for baseless attacks against them or any other educators providing students with the support, attention, and instruction they need to succeed," added Cohen.

East Hartford teacher and East Hartford Education Association President Annie Irvine agreed. "My colleagues are some of the most dedicated and hardest-working teachers you will ever meet. It is demoralizing for our teachers and our community to be subjected to this undeserved attack—especially by someone with no experience in public education who wants to privatize our schools and strip away billions of dollars in funding from public education, taking precious resources from students who need them most."

Dozens of East Hartford students also lent their voices to the rally, some having written letters to DeVos decrying her negative portrayal of their schools. Dozens of students held up signs, chanting, "DeVos Wrong, East Hartford Strong!"

U.S. Congressman John Larson, who along with his parents and his children are all products of East Hartford Public Schools, 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."

Education funding and resources needed

Teachers called on DeVos, as well as Connecticut's governor and legislators, to focus their attention on providing public schools with the funding so desperately needed to ensure that teachers have the resources necessary to help their students succeed.

"We need state and federal education agendas that focus on ensuring that public schools have the funding and resources to provide students with the tools and support to succeed," said Cohen.

Larson criticized DeVos's plans to slash the federal education budget. "Her proposal cuts the budget by $9 billion and shifts $1 billion into her special project for the elite and the wealthy… and everyone knows that's not right."

"DeVos represents the opposite of what we know leads to student success: well-resourced public schools and community support services, such as health care and after-school programs, that address the needs of the whole child," added Irvine. "We expect DeVos and Connecticut politicians to understand that schools need funding and teachers need resources to provide our students with the high-quality education they all deserve."

The teachers invited DeVos to visit an East Hartford classroom so that she can witness for herself the exceptional work of teachers and students.

"Teachers are speaking out. DeVos and our elected officials need to listen—the future of our children and our country depends on it," emphasized Cohen.


The Connecticut Education Association represents 43,000 teachers in Connecticut.

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