Over 50 business people, legislators, school officials and Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen heard from a national expert on school choice Tuesday, July 31 at a luncheon hosted by The Maine Heritage Policy Center.
Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, addressed the need for local control over schools and the importance of school choice and competition.
Her talk was part of an international effort to celebrate the legacy of Milton Friedman, the late Nobel Prize winner and one of the 20th century’s leading economists. MHPC joined organizations around the world to host events for Friedman Legacy for Freedom Day on what would have been his 100th birthday. Friedman was the father of the school voucher idea.
The global efforts to celebrate Friedman’s birthday are held annually to reaffirm his theories on free markets and school choice. An advocate for school choice, Burke also believes that states should oppose the federal government’s Common Core State Standards, which she sees as an expensive threat to local control.
“The Common Core State Standards Initiative, once driven by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, has become a federally incentivized enterprise with the goal of further centralizing control of education,” Burke wrote in a paper for The Heritage Foundation, titled “States Must Reject National Education Standards While There is Still Time.”
“National standards are unlikely to increase academic achievement, but they do pose a significant cost to taxpayers and further remove parents from decisions about what their children are taught,” Burke wrote. “National standards are the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to the students: local school leaders and parents. State leaders who believe in limited government and liberty should reclaim control of the content taught in their schools by preventing the imposition of national standards and tests in their states.”
Her work and commentary have been cited or appeared in national magazines such as The Atlantic, Time and Newsweek; newspapers such as The Boston Herald, The Star-Ledger, The Washington Examiner and The Washington Times; and digital venues such as the Daily Caller and National Review Online. Additionally, she has appeared on CNN and Fox News stations.
Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen attended the luncheon. State Board of Education members who were in attendance included Steven M. Pound, Ph.D., chair of the board; Jana Lapoint of Falmouth, who is chair of the Maine Charter School Commission; and Heidi Sampson, a teacher, coach and leading advocate for homeschooling.
State legislators at the luncheon included Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough), Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) and Rep. Beth O’Connor (R-Berwick).
The 54 attendees applauded when they were told that the contract for Maine’s first charter school, The Maine Academy of Natural Science in Hinckley, was signed that day.
Andrea Berry, president of the board of Baxter Academy, a STEM charter school proposed for Portland, also attended the luncheon. Baxter has been given conditional approval by the Education Commission to open fall of 2013, although Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is vocally opposed to it.
Baxter Academy for Technology and Science will be a rigorous, college-preparatory high school with a curriculum focused specifically on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Baxter Academy students will study complex, real-world problems, using and building technological tools in a collaborative environment with scientists, engineers and other professionals.
To find out more information about Baxter Academy, e-mail Andrea Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, “Friedman Legacy for Freedom Day” gatherings welcomed more than 8,400 people in 45 states and six countries. The annual event is sponsored by The Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice.
The Foundation was established in 1996 to advance a system of K-12 education in which every parent, regardless of race, origin or family income, was free to choose a learning environment that was best for their child. As Friedman said, “This foundation is the culmination of what has been one of our main interests for more than four decades: improvement in the quality of the education available to children of all income and social classes in this nation, whether that education is provided in government or private schools or at home. “
The luncheon, held at DiMillo’s in Portland, was one MHPC’s regularly scheduled monthly events. MHPC holds monthly luncheon or dinner events in Portland and Auburn, as well as Bangor. For more information on MHPC events, see www.mainepolicy.org.