The top Republican in the House of Representatives is calling on Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin to explain what she meant when she told lawmakers on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee that “academic learning” is going to take a “back seat” in Maine schools.
“It is my understanding that you stated, “Academic learning is definitely going to take a backseat to all of these other pieces.” These “other pieces” you were referencing were Social and Emotional Learning goals and objectives your department has,” House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) said in the letter to Makin.
“As the commissioner in charge of our state’s education, I found your comments quite shocking,” Faulkingham said.
“As the Republican leader for the House of Representatives, I would appreciate a further explanation, so I can better understand what priorities the department plans on placing above academics in our schools,” he said.
Makin has so far not responded to the letter.
Faulkingham’s letter went out on March 17.
The commissioner’s comments came in response to questions from GOP lawmakers on the committee about why Maine’s schools are increasingly focusing on social-emotional learning, gender ideology, and equity-based educational programs.
Makin, who has served as Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ education chief since 2019, responded that these experimental and politicized approaches to public education are designed with brain science in mind.
“I guess, I would say it really does come down to brain science,” Makin said. “Every child in the room needs to feel safe.”
According to Makin, kids can’t learn if they’re not made to feel safe, and only by using these new experimental techniques can kids be made to feel safe.
Otherwise, they will be too distracted to learn.
Or, as Makin’s more scientific approach puts it, “the little editor in their head is going to get pushed out of its seat, and the dysregulation takes over.”
Makin might have more to explain than just the “back seat” remark to the committee.
On Tuesday night, the Maine Wire reported that the city of Portland will receive an additional $3.6 million in school funding due to a millage rate error.
According to members of Portland’s Finance Committee, the error was made by the Maine Department of Education.