MURPHY TO DEVOS: IF YOU CARED ABOUT EAST HARTFORD STUDENTS, “YOU WOULDN'T BE PROPOSING THESE MASSIVE CUTS”

Murphy: “I understand that you talked a lot about students in East Hartford, Connecticut, but I don't see anything here that will help these kids.”

WASHINGTON – After Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to defend her criticisms of East Hartford High School as an “adult day care”, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees, criticized DeVos for her plan to cut critical funding from public education to enrich for-profit school operators. Murphy emphasized that stripping resources from public schools like East Hartford High School will do nothing to help improve educational outcomes. Click here to view a video of Murphy’s remarks.

“You spent some time today talking about students in East Hartford, Connecticut, and I fundamentally don't believe that this administration cares about the outcomes of students at East Hartford High School. Because if you did, you wouldn't be proposing these massive cuts in the programs that help the kids of East Hartford High School,” said Murphy. “Talking about massive cuts for afterschool programs that help kids in places like East Hartford, cuts in career and technical education, you’re talking about eliminating support for teacher training. This seems about a massive transfer of money from the public sector to the private sector with no protections around it.

Murphy continued, “I would hope that…you will go back and think about making sure that kids get protected, whether they are in a public school or private school, and that our taxpayer dollars don't end up simply being transferred to pad the pockets of the folks that are operating these schools.”

Highlights of Murphy’s exchange with DeVos is below:

MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for being here, Madam Secretary. With all due respect to my colleague from Louisiana, education is not mayonnaise. Frankly, the day that we start treating the education of our children like we do the marketing of a condiment is the day we've given up on our kids, and that's at the foundation of my worry about some of the proposals you put forth in your budget.

K12 Inc. is a for-profit operator. It was a for-profit operator, one of the biggest in the country, and your family was invested in it. A New York Times article on this organization said that a portrait emerges of this company as trying to “squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload, and lowering standards.” As a researcher at the University of Colorado said, the people running these for-profit companies are “fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”

You and I have a fundamental disagreement. I just don't think there's any room in our public education for individuals making millions of dollars, making their fortune off of taxpayer dollars, but to the extent you want to move more public dollars into the private sector, some of it will end up in the hands of these for-profit charter school operators. So my question is, does your proposal require any of these companies to disclose their profits? Will it cap the salaries of these CEOs? What protections will be in your – what specific protections will be in your proposal, in your program, to make sure that taxpayer dollars don't just end up enriching the pockets of the folks that own these companies?

DEVOS: Senator, thanks for that question. I think your question more broadly is better framed around what are students achieving, and I think the question is not what the tax status is --

MURPHY: That wasn't my --

DEVOS:  I don't think the question is the tax status --

MURPHY: No, that was my question.

DEVOS:  The question is not, in my view, it's not the tax status of the school, it's what are students achieving.

MURPHY: You can have any view of my question as you want, but my question is what protections will be on taxpayer dollars to make sure the heads of these companies don't end up being millionaires or billionaires off of the operation of these schools?

DEVOS:  If parents are making choices, regardless of the tax status of the school to which they are sending them, whether it's a for-profit managed institution or a not for-profit. If students are achieving and parents are making those choices on behalf of their children, I think those are the better measures to be oriented around.

MURPHY: Here's -- I understand that your question is there will be no protections for taxpayer dollars. I understand that you have a belief in the market, that that will end up solving the problems that may encounter, but here's my worry.

You spent some time today talking about students in East Hartford, Connecticut, and I fundamentally don't believe that this administration cares about the outcomes of students at East Hartford High School. Because if you did, you wouldn't be proposing these massive cuts in the programs that help the kids of East Hartford High School. Talking about massive cuts for afterschool programs that help kids in places like East Hartford, cuts in career and technical education, you’re talking about eliminating support for teacher training. All you're giving is the opportunity to choose a different school, but the fact of the matter is, that's not a panacea, right?

In Michigan alone, 70% of the charters in Detroit ranked in the bottom 25% of the state's schools. And you can't just chock that up to the difficulty of educating kids in Detroit, because the majority of African-American kids that were attending charter districts statewide performed worse than many of the students in those city schools. So, ultimately to me, this can't be about the kids in East Hartford, because if it was, you wouldn't be taking all this funding away from them, and you wouldn't just be throwing them out into a market-driven system that seems mostly about enriching the salaries of the CEOs who run these companies.

This seems about a massive transfer of money from the public sector to the private sector with no protections around it. So I would hope that in devising this proposal, you will go back and think about making sure that kids get protected, whether they are in a public school or private school, and that our taxpayer dollars don't end up simply being transferred to pad the pockets of the folks that are operating these schools.

I understand that you talked a lot about students in East Hartford, Connecticut, but I don't see anything here that will help these kids. All of their programs get cut that matter, right, massive cuts in support for public education. And then an invitation to go into the private sector, and in the private sector they'll find good schools and they'll find bad schools, but those private sector schools or charter schools will be enduring the same set of cuts that come to the public schools, and in the end it may simply be a way to pad the pockets of the folks that operate the schools.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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