AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul R. LePage held a statewide conference on education Friday at Cony High School in Augusta. The Governor spoke candidly about his own personal experiences with the education system in Maine and rebuked those who have accused him of slashing education funding.
“To say that the Governor of Maine is cutting education spending is incorrect,” said LePage. “To say that the Governor of Maine is making up for the loss of federal education funding is correct.”
The Governor pointed to a graph (below) showing how his administration has increased funding for education.
(* The amount listed for FY 13 is after the curtailment of GPA enacted in the recent supplemental budget.** The $894 million listed for FY 14 and FY 15 is the net amount committed by the state after $27 million in new money is added to GPA to partially offset the $28 million in new costs to districts created by having those districts pay the normal pension costs for their employees. The actual proposed amount for GPA for FY 14 and FY 15 is roughly $922 million.)
“I don’t apologize for being rough around the edges, because that’s what happens when you’re on the streets,” said LePage. “It comes from the right place, trust me.”
For the rest of the morning, the Governor sat in the front row and quietly took notes as panelists addressed the audience of mostly public school superintendents and administrators.
Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, encouraged conference attendees to embrace education innovation.
“The landscape of opportunities for kids nationwide is really remarkable,” she said.
Allen said Maine has been late to the party in adopting reforms to increase educational choice. She said Maine’s charter school law is one of the weakest in the country and was not based on a successful model from another state.
“The process has worked at a snail’s pace, with all due respect,” said Allen.
“A charter school is the opportunity to innovate,” she said. “Charter schools were intended to result in a shift in our thinking, a shift in what we’re doing in our schools,” she said. “It is not a critique to say we have to do things differently.”
“Public education isn’t public because it’s one system,” said Allen.
“Public education is public because it is educating the public.”