MSMA: LePage outlines education goals in inaugural address

Maine School Management Association
Jan. 5, 2011

LePage outlines education goals in inaugural address

Gov. Paul LePage was sworn into office today and outlined his broad-brush goals for K-12 education as part of an inaugural address he gave to the Legislature and attendees at ceremonies held at the Augusta Civic Center.

His address reiterated a campaign process “to put people before politics” and focused on three areas -- education, the state Medicaid and welfare system and improving the business climate.

This is what he had to say about K-12 education.

“One area where we must put politics and special interests aside is education.

Students are the most important people in the classroom. Every decision we make and every dollar we spend must be focused on the individualized needs of our kids.

Our standards need to be high, administration must be lean and we have to make sure we find solutions that work for all students.

I believe we need to make vocational education a priority again in our schools. Training our young people in a trade while they earn their diploma is a path to a good living.

I believe we also need to create five year high schools in Maine where students can graduate with an associate’s degree that is a leg up for entering the workforce. And these credits can be transferred into our four year degree universities, reducing the time and expense of earning a college degree in Maine.”

Contact: Dale Douglass, executive director
Victoria Wallack, communications director
Telephone: 207-622-3473 or 1-800-660-8484

Lots of Promises

Although the Governor's speech was appropriately vague on educational specifics (it wasn't a State of the State, after all), there are a couple of items I hope he and his team think twice about before going much further:

1. Individualized instruction for students: this sounds good, but is tough to implement particularly without additional staff. Since one of the complaints about education in Maine is that our classes are TOO small, it seems odd to mention a strategy that requires even more one-on-one time.

2. Money directly to the classrooms: most school system money is spent on salaries, wages and benefits for teachers and staff. Some funds go to transportation, a direct student cost. I would be more than happy to see central office administration cut down, but the last time that was tried it was to cut educational funding (school reorganization of 2007 allegedly saved $36 million), not increase the dollars sent to classrooms.

3. Vocational education: there are already many strong voc-ed programs around the state. Many would certainly benefit from a better scheduling system between them and the high school(s) to which they are attached, though, so students can attend more readily when they also need core subjects like English, math and science.

4. 5-year high schools: Maine's high schools are not prepared for keeping students an additional year and there's no reason to do so. The cost for an additional year would be better spent on shoring up Maine's community college system.

5. Finally, the Governor needs to decide what to do with all of the previous administration's initiatives before adding new ones: for example, Maine Course Pathways; adopting Common Core Standards; Standards-Based education; increasing graduation rates; as well as all the federal requirements such as NCLB and Race to the Top.