In the Maine Democratic Party's third installment of The Clone Wars, we highlight Governor LePage's abysmal record on public education, along with the Republican candidates' commitment to continuing LePage's attacks on teachers and his undermining of public school systems in Maine.
Education can be an equalizing force in America, helping provide the tools that can open doors of opportunity for countless students. In Maine, especially in rural parts of the state, that is particularly true.
It’s too bad then that Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has never been a big champion for Maine students. In 2013, he all but said they were too stupid to get into college, asserting that colleges across the country forced Maine kids to take special entrance screening exams (spoiler alert: he was wrong, they don’t).
In 2012, LePage even allowed the nation’s largest for-profit virtual-school company to essentially ghost-write his education policy, a move that would significantly benefited them:
“A Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found large portions of Maine’s digital education agenda are being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to capitalize on the changes…”
And, throughout his nearly seven years in office, LePage has had multiple Commissioners of Education, even at one point essentially naming himself the Commissioner.
The LePage Administration’s policies have undermined public education and hurt Maine school systems at almost every turn. From attacking teachers unions, to calling teachers “a dime a dozen”, to shifting costs onto local communities, strengthening public education in Maine has never been a priority for this governor. In fact, chipping away at it is his M.O.
Press Herald: “Many school districts are still struggling to adapt to the 2013 state budget, which shifted certain teacher retirement costs to local districts. That move coincided with the LePage administration suspending municipal revenue sharing for two years before reinstating it at a reduced level. ‘It gets a little bit worse every year, that’s the thing,’ said Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the state teachers union.”
And what could be more emblematic of LePage’s aversion to Maine’s public education system than his fight to scale back the voter-approved boost in funding to schools? The state has consistently failed in its mandate to deliver 55 percent funding to Maine schools, and just when it seemed like more funding might come their way, LePage and Republicans stood in the way. The results are crushing Maine schools.
Press Herald: “Education leaders say the expectation of getting funds from the voter-approved tax surcharge - then losing them in the budget deal - was a significant blow.”
So where are the Republican candidates for governor on public education in Maine, teachers, and school funding? You guessed it: more of the same. Both Ken Fredette and Garrett Mason joined LePage to beat back the voter-approved increase in education funding, and most of the candidates have pledged to continue to undermine public education with Moody even saying schools are “overfunded”:
“They’re over-funded,” Moody said when asked if Maine’s schools have enough money - the only gubernatorial candidate of any party who believes that.
“Fredette complained that teachers’ unions ‘control the schools and the teachers’...”
“Mayhew...blamed the education system and what she described as the ‘welfare nonprofit industrial complex’ for promoting government dependency.”
“Mason agreed [with Mayhew that the Department of Education is a ‘glorified think tank.’]. ‘It is the last liberal fiefdom that's yet to be dismantled in Augusta and I can’t wait to do it!’ he said.”
Education is too valuable to allow Mary Mayhew, Shawn Moody, Garrett Mason, and Ken Fredette to continue Paul LePage’s backward policies. Maine schools, Maine teachers, and, most importantly, Maine students deserve better if we are going to build a better, brighter future for our state -- but the Republicans are only offering more of the same.