Governor Paul R. LePage responded to the Maine Charter School Commission Wednesday morning after the group turned down four of five applications for public charter schools – before even going to a public hearing on them.
“Once again this group of people has failed to live up to its responsibilities to Maine students,” Governor LePage said. “This is truly a dereliction of duty. What we are talking about is a Commission moving far too slowly and putting political favors ahead of the needs of our children,” Governor LePage said. “It’s really quite shocking, if you think about it.”
On Tuesday, the Commission voted to allow only one of the five applications – for a charter school in Harpswell – move forward through the process.
The Commission received an 11th hour letter from lawyers representing the Maine School Board Association Tuesday evening in which the association challenged the Commission’s process and asked for “intervenor status,” a legal term for those who get involved in court cases.
“They’ve hired lawyers to stop the reform process from moving forward and to intimidate the Commission,” Governor LePage said. “And the Commission was all too willing to succumb. Could they not have at the very least given the applicants the chance to make their case in a public hearing?”
It is also disturbing that the Maine School Board Association is spending taxpayer dollars on lawyers to block reform rather than educating students, noted the Governor. “It’s obvious charter school applicants will not be provided a fair hearing under the current system,” said Governor LePage.
Two of the applicants would have created virtual charter schools in Maine. Both had previously applied and were turned down by the Commission in June of last year and told to come back after the Commission had more time to learn about how virtual charter schools work.
“Now, they’ve come back with what the Commission asked for, and they aren’t even giving them a chance to explain their application.”
On Wednesday, the Governor called for the resignation of Commission members. “If any members of the Commission are not up to meeting the state’s expectations, I urge their resignation,” Governor LePage said. “Charter schools are not a new concept. Nor is approval of charter schools a novel process.”
Maine is the 41st state in the nation to allow charter schools.