LePage on Wrong Page When It Comes to Education:
--LePage says Maine teachers need more content skills, yet he is a proponent of vouchers for homeschooling and private schools -- which undoubtedly will lead to more students receiving instruction from teachers who have less training.
LePage has pledged to make education reform one of his big three areas of focus for the next legislative session. The vague outlines of his plan are leaking out slowly -- but that's fast enough for us.
In his September 3 radio address, LePage discussed the 5-year federally funding pay-for-performance program being piloted in 18 Maine schools.
After a Sept. 9 meeting with two dozen Maine employers, LePage felt he had enough data to conclude that the problem in Maine was not a shortage of jobs but a shortage of skilled workers.
In a following address, LePage stated the goals of improving education and planning for a better-trained workforce were priorities for the next legislative session.
His Sept. 24 radio address focused entirely on education reform and teacher effectiveness.
And, finally, today, LePage participated in a panel along with nine other governors in which he asserted that Maine needs to follow the lead of countries with top education systems in terms of having teachers having degrees in their content areas.
Decoding and reading between the lines of the above plus remaining mindful of what we learned in LePage Education 101 allows us to present you with:
The LePage Education Plan for 2012 and Beyond:
1. Reduce the number of teachers. LePage states that having quality teachers is more important than class size. He wants to pay the best teachers more. He doesn't want to spend more money overall. He will preside over the expansion of charter schools and favors school vouchers to cover even homeschoolers. His Commish, Steve Bowen is a big proponent of virtual learning, All of these point toward a reduction in the number of classroom teachers we have in Maine.
2, Pay Some Teachers More. Pay other teachers less. Selected teachers with high scores on a subjective evaluation scales will be paid bonuses. (See #1 above). LePage talks about paying the best teachers more every chance he gets. It's apparently his way of trying to prove to himself and others that he is a pro-teacher kind of guy. If he went out and listened to teachers, we are pretty sure this is not what he would end up with. Teachers would find a lot of ways to spend educational funding before they would spend it on themselves, especially when it comes to doing it in a way that pits one teacher against other. Last time we checked, good teachers work in teams. They collaborate, share ideas, and each plays a qualitative (not always quantifiable) part in the life of a child.
Think the majority of teachers will experience raises? Think again. This is the man whose pension "reform plan": would have devasted teacher retirement and effectively cut $1,000.00 from the salary of every teacher across the state. Fat chance.
3. Promote a 5th year of high school / early college. This idea reportedly originated when LePage visited a friend (and by happenstance observed this system) in North Carolina. Problem is, LePage says he has no money to fund it, meaning that local communities will need to stretch their educational budgets even further, raise taxes in this failing economy, or just say no.
4. Encourage more students to go into engineering, technical careers, and the trades. That sounds well and good, except that Maine high schools have spent the last ten years strengthening their emphasis on core academic standards so their students can do better on the required array of standardized tests and thus gain admittance into 2 and 4-year colleges. Is the wave of the future really that dusty old industrial arts program?
5. Require teachers to have degrees in their content areas. Under current law, as required by No Child Left Behind, Maine teachers must be highly qualified in the subjects they teach. By definition, a highly qualified teacher must have either a degree or credit hours sufficient for a degree in a content area. LePage touts other countries as having better educational systems because they do what we are already doing. Disconnect? Interestingly, the Maine Teacher of the Year (recently lauded by LePage -- "there should be one of her in every classroom") -- no disrespect intended to her) does not have a degree in her content area. Her degrees are in education.
6. Squash local teachers unions. Develop a single statewide teacher contract. Local communities and school boards will no longer have the right to negotiate salary, and local teachers unions will become obsolete. Pay scales will be standardized across the state. Does LePage truly intend to level pay scales in Meddybemps and Masardis with those in Wells and Westbrook? Sounds like a costly endeavor to us.
Any such move would pit one school against the other, one region of the state against the other, and ultimately make it easier to eliminate the state teachers union as well.
7. Dismantle public education. Ok, this is a long-term goal, but LePage wants to beef up his rep with his buddies in ALEC and the Tea Party. Charter schools are in. Next step is vouchers for private schools and home schoolers. #6 above will help speed the process along and will probably be even more satisfying to the Paginator.