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Hogan visits Montgomery County school with U.S. Education Secretary DeVos

Governor Larry Hogan popped into a Montgomery County elementary school Thursday morning to read some Dr. Seuss, sharing the job with one of the Trump administration's most divisive figures, education secretary Betsy DeVos.

Gov. Larry Hogan popped into a Montgomery County elementary school Thursday morning to read some Dr. Seuss. He shared the job with one of the Trump administration's most divisive figures: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The Republican governor and DeVos greeted second graders from Carderock Springs Elementary in the school's library before sitting down to read "Oh The Places You'll Go," Seuss' ode to pluck.

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"Good morning Mrs. Secretary DeVos," the children said in unison.

"That is quite a big handle, isn't it?" DeVos said, before cracking open the book. Hogan, who said he didn't know the story, picked up on a hopeful note after the protagonist leaves the "waiting place."

"You'll find the bright places where boom bands are playing," the governor read.

While the tone inside the library was light, protesters massed on the suburban street outside the school. Many carried signs opposing policies championed by Hogan and DeVos, such as support for charter schools and government voucher programs that parents can use to pay for private school.

"Invest in public education not vouchers," one sign read.

Hogan proposed legislation in this year's General Assembly session that would create a statewide charter school authorization board, a move that supporters of privately run schools say would help more of them open in Maryland. Democrats in the House of Delegates stopped the measure at the committee stage.

Hogan has pointed out that his budget proposal included record spending on the state's public schools. That funding is determined through a formula mandated by state law.

In Annapolis Thursday, Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch were sharply critical of Hogan for appearing alongside DeVos.

"If they have their way, they're going to break down the school system," Busch told the Legislative Black Caucus.

Miller said Maryland had been ranked No. 1 in education a few years ago but had since slipped to No. 5.

"We're gaining to come back, but not with help from Betsy DeVos," Miller told an Annapolis news conference.

Hogan's staff said the event was not political and noted that the governor had held a similar book reading with Arne Duncan, who served as education secretary under President Barack Obama.

"They both need to grow up, take a deep breath and come back to reality," spokesman Doug Mayer said of the legislative leaders. "We need to put our students first and the politics second."

Christine Fleming, a parent who said she had a child at the school and two others who previously attended, joined the protest. She said Carderock Springs was a "shining example" of what public schools can do and worried that the policies promoted by DeVos would hurt such schools.

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"All kids deserve what the kids here have," Fleming said. "This is a right, not a privilege."

A smaller group of Hogan supporters mingled with the protesters, some carrying signs from the governor's election campaign and one that simply read "We ♥ Hogan."

Others held signs referring to an incident in nearby Rockville in which two undocumented immigrants have been accused of raping a girl in a school. In a statement released before her visit Thursday, DeVos said her "heart aches" for the victim. Hogan called on Montgomery County this week to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation.

Referring to a debate over the role local law enforcement should play in supporting federal deportation efforts, one sign read: "No Sanctuary in MD."

When DeVos visited a public school in Washington shortly after being sworn in, protesters physically confronted her and temporarily blocked her from going inside. On Thursday, there was some passionate chanting, but the rally remained peaceful.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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