LePage Proposes Sweeping Changes To Education In Maine
Governor LePage and Maine’s Commissioner of Education were in Skowhegan Wednesday proposing some sweeping changes to education in Maine. But those changes are already drawing criticism from Democrats and the Maine Education Association. Education Commissioner Steve Bowen outlined their vision for the future of education in Maine, a future that would include public funding of religious schools, new evaluations for teachers and principals, more choice for students in where they go to school and a greater focus on career and technical education. “The one thing that our administration is going to do is concentrate on the students first,” LePage told the crowd. “All too often in the last 25 years, we’ve forgotten about trades and vocations in the state of Maine.” Bowen says students should be attending schools that fit their needs, regardless of their zip code. “You know we have this system where we tell every town, ‘You’ve got to build a school that fits the needs of every single kid inside the town lines,’” Bowen said. “What we’re saying is, ‘Can we get past that and stop seeing the town line?’”Not everyone at Wednesday’s event was on board with the changes. Maine Education Association President Chris Galgay says these changes will only hurt students in Maine. “Every one of the ideas just pulls more and more resources away from our schools, so I don’t know how that’s putting kids first,” Galgay told reporters.Galgay says it’s up to the state to make sure students don’t have to travel to get an adequate education. “I think again that the goal of a state, regardless of your zip code, is that there’s a quality public school in every community, and this doesn’t do anything to ensure that.”The most controversial proposal would allow public funding for private religious schools, something that is currently prohibited by Maine law. “What that would mean is a school that is a religious school, but did all the other things they needed to do to get private school approval for receipt of public tuition dollars, they would have access to do that,” Bowen said. Galgay also vehemently opposes this change to the law. “There’s a prohibition against tax payer dollars going to religious schools for a reason,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s the responsibility of a taxpayer to support a religious school.”Democratic leaders call the governor’s plan a short-sighted scheme that will put more of a burden on property taxpayers and weaken public education in Maine.Bowen says the legislation should be ready to present to lawmakers by next week.