Tuesday July 31, 2012 | 07:11 PM

Gov. Paul LePage continued his effort to promote school choice today by employing an old governor's trick – designating a special day.

LePage proclaimed July 31, 2012 as “Milton Friedman Day.” The  influential free-market economist was born 100 years ago today and died in 2006. In his proclamation, LePage emphasized Friedman's support for school choice, something LePage says would boost student performance in Maine.

But a close look at LePage's own press release suggests it's a little more complicated than that. Here is what the news release says:

Maine’s educational goals align with Friedman’s vision: all children should have the right to the highest-quality schools possible. Research suggests that providing children with multiple schooling options improves academic performance.... Friedman’s ideas have also helped lead to positive education reform in countries such as Chile and Sweden.

Did you say Sweden?

Last week, LePage cited a Harvard University study of student achievement test trends in 41 states and 49 countries as evidence of Maine's failing education efforts. He noted that Maine's rate of improvement was among the slowest among the states studied. (He also drew criticism for saying this: "I don't care where you go in this country -- if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon.")

In that same Harvard study, Chile had the second fastest rate of improvement in test scores among  the countries studied. Friedman's ideas at work? Maybe. However, Sweden was dead last among the nations and actually saw its test scores drop at a dramatic rate, according to the study. Probably not the best model for school choice in Maine.

To be fair, the Harvard study doesn't say anything about which states and countries have the best education systems, only which ones had the biggest improvements in certain test scores from 1995 to 2009. And there clearly is a lot more going on behind the numbers than Friedman and school choice, or the lack of choice.

In any case, Happy Milton Friedman Day.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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