Inside Augusta

LePage blasts Alfond on "unconscionable" attack on public school



AUGUSTA – Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage on Wednesday hit back at Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) for his incendiary remarks regarding a Portland-based public charter school.

“I was disappointed to read your attack on the Baxter Academy of Technology and Science, the newly approved public charter school in Portland,” LePage wrote to Alfond in a July 31 letter obtained by The Maine Wire. “Baxter provides an excellent opportunity for students who are seeking a project-based, technology-rich, college-preparatory education focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”

LePage was responding to comments Alfond made last week regarding Baxter’s decision to join The Maine Heritage Policy Center for a luncheon celebrating the legacy of Nobel leaureate Milton Friedman, himself a champion of school choice.

In an article titled “Alfond attacks new Portland charter school for aligning with ‘extreme organization,’ Alfond told Bangor Daily News reporter Chris Cousins, “The Maine Heritage Policy Center is one of the most extreme organizations in the state of Maine. They do not look at collaborating or cooperating and working with public schools. It’s a very disappointing reality that Baxter is partnering with the Maine Heritage Policy Center.”

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LePage, who has made expanding school choice a hallmark of his administration, jabbed back at Alfond, pointing to the hypocrisy of his attack on the Portland public school.

“Attacking a public charter school that provides choice for Maine students reeks of hypocrisy,” wrote LePage. “You were fortunate enough to choose from any number of private high school, and you had the unlimited financial resources necessary to attend Noble and Greenough, an elitist private school in Massachusetts.”

Tuition at Noble and Greenough, a highly-selective boarding school located in Dedham, Mass., is $42,500 for 5-day boarding students, well above the median income for a family in Maine. Alfond, who grew up in Dexter, attended public school until his sophomore year, but then chose to leave his less wealthy peers for a better opportunity.

Wrote LePage, “The students who choose to attend Baxter cannot afford the world-class education you received at a very expensive boarding school. It is unconscionable that you would deny students the choice of which public school in Maine provides the best education that is tailored to fit their individual needs.”

LePage hit Alfond not only for being hypocritical and out of touch with average Mainers, but also for his sustained attacks on Maine’s public charter schools – attacks he believes come at the request of Maine’s powerful school unions.

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“[You] and the school union bosses have been fighting tirelessly to deny Maine students the choice of where they can get the best education,” wrote LePage. “You are putting the politically motivated demands of the union ahead of the best interests of the students,” he wrote. “This is wrong. We must put our students first.”

“Intentionally spreading false information about Baxter is dishonest, and denying Maine students the same opportunity you had to succeed shows utter disrespect for them,” he wrote. “I urge you to stop launching unprovoked attacks on school choice, and stop pandering to school union bosses.”

“Do the right thing. Put Maine students first.”

This is the second time Alfond made unwarranted accusations against public schools in Portland. In July, Alfond said that the Portland-area high schools deny uniformed military recruiters access to campus grounds – a claim Portland school officials later called “wrong.” 

The Maine Wire is a project of The Maine Heritage Policy Center.

S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently the executive producer of the Kirk Minihane Show. Follow him on Twitter @BigSteve207.

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