Should teachers’ unions set Maine’s education policy instead of local school boards and elected officials?
Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud appears to have given conflicting answers on that question, leading some to suspect he’s been less than truthful with education stakeholders in order to garner their support for his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
Asked about the role collective bargaining should play in crafting education policy for Maine schools, Michaud appears to have given two different, even opposing answers to the Maine School Management Association (MSMA) and the Maine Education Association (MEA) — two major stakeholders in Maine’s education policy world.
According to an April 2014 mailer from the MEA – also known as the teachers union, Michaud said education policy should be determined through collective bargaining.
The flier says of Michaud: “Supports giving educators a voice in their professions by allowing educators to retain control of the curricula they teach and bargain education policy issues.”
Michaud’s view that education policy should be subject to collective bargaining emerged in the teachers union’s 2014 “Screening and Endorsement Interview,” according to the flier. If Michaud was unsure about his answer to the question, the MEA certainly was not.
However, Michaud told a different story to the MSMA when asked about the role of bargaining in setting policy for Maine’s schools. According to a May 2 press release from MSMA, Michaud said he “wasn’t sure” whether education policy should remain the domain of local school boards.
“I’d have to look at it,” Michaud told the MSMA.
The MSMA is a statewide non-profit that works on education policy with local school boards, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association. They say school boards have for a long time successfully defended union-led attempts to erode local control.
“It has long been held that policy belongs with those elected to represent students, staff, parents and taxpayers in the community,” the MSMA wrote.
The tersely worded press release suggests the MSMA and its allies believe Michaud is speaking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to Maine’s teachers union and its role in Maine’s schools.
Subjecting education policy to collective bargaining would drastically increase the power of the teachers union at the expense of school boards and other elected officials.
National teachers unions and the MEA have given large sums of cash to Michaud’s previous campaigns, and, according to Maine campaign finance records, three employees of the MEA have made donations to Michaud’s current campaign. The MEAs political action committee is expected to support him with independent expenditures throughout this summer and fall.
Michaud’s campaign headquarters did not respond to a phone call seeking comment on this story.
Both of Michaud’s opponents believe teachers unions and collective bargaining should not set educational policy.
In the MEA flier, independent candidate Eliot Cutler is quoted as saying, “I won’t be pressured by the unions… to make collective bargaining a ‘tool of state economic policy,’ or to ‘make education policy a subject of collective bargaining.”
Republican Gov. Paul LePage has butted heads on several occasions with the teachers union, most notably over his initiative to apply A-F grades to all of Maine’s schools.
Editor, The Maine Wire