Maine governor blasts officials for rejecting new charter schools

January 10, 2013

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By Victor Skinner
EAGnews.org

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine Gov. Paul LePage has had enough of his state’s charter school commission.

mainegovHe wants all of its members to resign.

The governor is upset because the seven-member commission voted this week to reject four out of five applications from potential charter schools.

LePage also accused the Maine School Management Association  – an organization for public school superintendents and school board members – of trying to scare charter school commission members into blocking the applications for new schools.

“The school boards hired an attorney, they put together a letter, went in there and intimidated them,” LePage said, according to the Bangor Daily News.

LePage had no sympathy for the allegedly-bullied board members. He said it’s their responsibility to resist such pressure and make decisions in the best interest of K-12 students.

More charter schools would benefit kids, he believes.

“If you’ve got a job and you’re going to be intimidated, give it up and we’ll get somebody who can do the job,” the governor said.

“I am asking them, for the good of the kids of the state of Maine, please go away. We don’t need you. We need some people with backbones,” he said.

Leaders of the MSMA, of course, deny LePage’s accusations. So do members of the charter school commission, contending that they made their decision before receiving the letter from the MSMA.

It seems clear, however, that the state’s teachers union and the MSMA are certainly influencing the charter school commission’s decisions.

“Their job is to send out (requests for proposals), get proposals in, study the proposals and then approve or reject,” LePage said, according to the News. “But they rejected four out of five without giving them a hearing, without even listening to them.”

Teachers union leaders and school administrators frequently resist charter schools and other school choice options because they funnel students and state funds away from traditional public schools.

They’re concerned about their own self-interests, not necessarily what’s best for students.

“I’m speaking out against the administration of the school systems, K-12, because they’re stuck in the status quo, and I’m speaking out against the (Maine Education Association) teachers union,” LePage said.

We’re certainly glad someone is. For years, the education establishment (particularly the unions) has run the show and the results speak for themselves.

While we suspect that none of the charter school commission members will resign any time soon, LePage is sending a very strong and important message: Public schools exist to educate the next generation, not for the financial comfort of public school employees.

We commend the governor for bravely calling out Maine’s education establishment for its self-serving behavior. We hope his passion for education reform will convince the defenders of the status quo that the old way of doing business simply isn’t going to fly in the Pine Tree State.

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