Since June, condemnably unfounded accusations of “blackmail” and “power overreach” in regards to the LePage administrations decision to withhold a $125,000 quarterly state grant from GoodWill Hinckley (GWH) in reaction to a rash hiring decision have been continuously purported. Claimants allege that, amidst a personal vendetta against House Speaker Mark Eves, Governor LePage “blackmailed” GWH into terminating his employment by threatening to withhold state funding. Since an absurd premise leads to absurd conclusions, such “blackmail” apparently constitutes an impeachable offense.
The decision to withhold funding had absolutely no basis in attempting to personally hurt Mark Eves. It was made only on one basis. That basis was answering the question of whether the grant was being allocated to a non-profit run charter school advancing the development of it and the overall embryonic Maine charter school system, or whether continued funding to GWH would do nothing to advance this goal, and the funds would be better spent elsewhere. Following a brief review of the contextual history between the LePage administration and GWH, this will become obvious.
It has apparently escaped these people’s memory that in 2011, the Governor requested $730,000 a year in state funding for GWH in his biannual budget proposal for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. This amount was reduced, through ‘legislative consideration and review,’ to just $330,000 in 2012, and $530,000 in 2013. Mark Eves’ role in the requested grant’s reduction was prominent.
Despite the significant reduction in this temporary grant, according to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) report, LePage’s effort was essential for the school’s existence. If not for LePage’s deeply invested interest in promoting the new Maine charter school system, the charter school managed by GWH wouldn’t be around today.
It is important to note the OPEGA report also states that in a financial plan submitted by GWH, as required for receiving this state funding, the non-profit was supposed to be completely independent of state funding by 2014. In 2013, and again in 2014, GWH hired lobbyists in attempts to secure continued funding from Augusta. Fortunately, LePage was impressed with the progress the school had made, and had additional interest in its potential to begin a logging vocational program. Thus, the $530,000 grant was extended for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. LePage had a clear interest in seeing this school succeed.
Where was Mark Eves amidst all this? Voting against Charter School funding. Campaigning on the platform of eradicating the charter school program in Maine. Blocking bills relevant to benefitting charter schools from being put up for vote in the House as Speaker. He was on a blazing crusade against GWH and its seven other charter school contemporaries in Maine. That was until they offered him a $100,000 salary to be their president.
GWH’s decision to hire Eves was obviously based on their intent to secure greater state funding in the future, reflected in their hiring of lobbyists only in years when the grant came into jeopardy of expiring. Frankly, it was an indefensibly stupid decision to hire someone to run a charter school whom was both completely unqualified, and had opposed charter schools their entire political career. Frankly, it would be like Yoda asking Darth Vader to lead the rebel alliance.
The decision to withhold GWH’s funding was based solely on a different answer to the same aforementioned question regarding the propriety of continuing to allocate state funding to GWH. Since 2011, the answer to this question had been yes, GWH was prospering and advancing the overall Maine charter school system’s development. However, hiring someone as unqualified and adversarial to charter schools as Eves to be president changed that answer.
So why did LePage’s administration withhold funding? The charter school had lost the former trust he had for it, trust that taxpayers’ money allocated to it promoted Mainers’ best interests. Read it for yourself. He said it. Since when is choosing to pull a temporary grant from an organization that has clearly shown their unworthiness for it blackmail?
LePage was looking out for the interests of Maine taxpayers. Anyone can see he wasn’t launching some malicious personal attack against Eves out of personal spite. One really has to employ some logical and factual contortions to convince themselves of such a claim. Allegations of LePage overstepping his authority don’t even merit address.
So why are legislators crying out “blackmail!” and calling for impeachment? Well, they have no idea what they’re talking about. And if we are to engage in this rhetorical babble also, we simply fuel a foolish fire.