Only so much air: Appropriations Subcommittee on Education: 3/26/2007

Only so much air: Appropriations Subcommittee on Education: 3/26/2007
Mon Mar 26, 2007, 19:01:45 EST

With the attention of the rest of the full Appropriations Committee turned to the greater matter of bonds, this afternoon the Appropriations subcommittee on Education valiantly soldiered on working against the clock to settle the plan for the future of Maine's schools.

But today in their discussions you could hear weariness exacting its toll. Several times minutiae of policy cornered them in cul de sacs.

Local advisory councils to the new regional boards -- should they be required?, encouraged?, optional?, prohibited?

Should the size of new regional boards be specified to be a function of number of towns?, number of students?, number of schools?, density of citizenry?

The difficulty of settling anything seemed progressively to increase to the point where it was almost as if the oxygen in the committee room had been requisitioned for some emergency elsewhere.

Just as the Commissioner has re-constituted the word "conversation" as a synonym for "administrative directive," for the past few days the subcommittee has tried to appropriate their own fresh paradigm by stifling use of the word 'consolidation' and in favor of the fastidiously substituted term "realignment", hoping, one supposes, that any historical Marxist echoes would, to most modern ears, now be heard as a more positive and progressive inversion.

But, by the end of this afternoon's sessions, even among the
subcommittee members, "realignment" backslid repeatedly into
"consolidation", especially in its conceptually useful contrast to "collaboration", and ultimately old-think gave no ground.

Numerous times, the subcommittee tried to circle in suddenly to catch one of the trickier issues -- such as "timeline" or "authority" -- unaware. But each time, frustratingly, the partridge flushed too soon.

For example, endeavoring to schedule a local "advisory" vote on
"realignment" to coincide with the November election, the subcommittee learned form the Secretary of State that the ballot would have to be printed in September to allow time for servicemen abroad to vote absentee. So, by August of this year, the consolidation plans would have either to be set specifically and unalterably in text -- or else presented so vaguely as to be fully without detail.

Senator Turner warmly preferred the latter -- offering as example:

    "Shall the citizens of this town approve the realignment of our school district to save the taxpayers money?"
    Yes or no?

You get the idea of where this is going, and it's not pretty.

--Brian Hubbell, 3/26/2007