AUGUSTA — As a new school year begins in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage is praising a new federally funded teacher training program.

In his weekly radio address, LePage says teachers at 18 schools in five Maine districts are participating in professional development and developing new evaluation and performance-based pay systems this fall.

The five-year pilot project of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. Also this year, teachers and administrators will set “stretch goals” for improving student achievement.

In the Democratic response, Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash says Labor Day falls at a time the country struggles to recover from an economic recession. Many Mainers are either unemployed, underemployed, or having difficulty making ends meet.