Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The response from the public to Gov. LePage's A-F grades for public schools was immediate and severe. Now the motives behind the grades are clearer.
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen and Gov. LePage unveil the school ranking system May 1. The head of the state teachers union is skeptical about the motive for implementing the system.
2013 Kennebec Journal File Photo/Joe Phelan
An internal memo that, no doubt, the governor hoped wouldn't see the light of day, has been discovered. It clearly delineates the Department of Education political agenda.
The memo from Commissioner Stephen Bowen to Gov. LePage states, "The biggest step by far would be to authorize some kind of takeover of a school by the state. We do not have the authority to do that under current law. What we could do is propose legislation that takes a school out from under the authority of the school district and puts it under state control."
The "it" referred to is each school receiving an F. There it is, the actual motivation behind the grading system.
Bowen continues, "A step that is not quite as dramatic as a state takeover would be to allow students in failing schools to have school choice." The state would walk away from a needy school, leaving only the families who can't find another school to accept their children.
The commissioner's flawed grading system relies almost exclusively on standardized test scores. Nationally, researchers have widely criticized the tests for their socioeconomic bias. Wealthier parents = Higher student scores. Results in Maine bear this out.
Next expect that Commissioner Bowen and Gov. LePage will engage in "school improvement." Anticipate that the governor will drain funds from public schools and privatize community schools.
The internal dialogue in the memo simply proves the LePage administration has no real interest in improving public education.
Instead, Gov. LePage stands on his political soapbox, preaching out one side of his mouth about the importance of putting students first, while out of the other side he professes his intention of destroying the public education system.
president, Maine Education Association
Enough is enough! The stunning hypocrisy of Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen should energize teachers throughout the state to take action ("Maine Voices: Attack on new school grading system fails to take facts into account," May 13).
Bowen goes on to state that the latest A-F grading system is working even in very poor communities, and that Gov. LePage believes, as he does, "that all students regardless of the challenges they face can learn, even in the poorest communities."
Such simplistic comments should help people recognize that the sole purpose of Gov. LePage and his sycophantic crony appointee is to perpetuate for-profit charter schools, which has been their secret agenda all along.
Educators and the people of Maine should consider impeachment of the governor and removal of Bowen before irreparable damage is done to our educational system.
retired educator and former union president
Increase in cigarette taxes would aid revenue, health
I am writing to voice my support for increasing Maine's cigarette tax by $1.50.
One of the most effective ways to lower smoking rates is to increase taxes on cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maine has not raised its cigarette tax since 2005, after which consumption of cigarettes dropped by more than 6 million packs per capita and the smoking rate among high school students declined by 16 percent.
Maine has the second-lowest cigarette tax in New England. We cannot afford to go backward in the progress we have made to improve the health of Mainers by helping them quit using tobacco or preventing them from ever starting.
If Maine raised the tax on cigarettes, it would mean: Fewer young people will become smokers, more adults will quit smoking and our state would save millions of dollars every year in health care costs and raise more than $47 million in additional excise tax revenue.
The benefits of raising the cigarette tax in Maine are undeniable. I urge our Legislature to support a cigarette tax increase in Maine, for the good of our state and the health of its citizens.
volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Food stamp cuts will drive more Mainers to private aid
The Press Herald is correct that Maine is facing a hunger crisis ("Our View: Hunger crisis calls for immediate attention," May 6). Good Shepherd Food Bank works with hundreds of agencies to provide 13 million pounds of food annually to families facing hunger. And it's not enough. The number of food-insecure people in Maine has grown by 50 percent since 2005.
When our organization started more than 30 years ago, food banks and pantries were considered the "emergency food system," assisting people who needed help to get them through a rough patch. Now food pantries are part of the everyday lives of thousands of Mainers.
Forty percent of Mainers facing hunger make too much to qualify for government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Yet they don't make a living wage and don't have adequate access to nutritious food.
We need a strong safety net for people who lack access to food. As Congress debates the farm bill this month, it should ensure robust funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. If cuts are made, more Mainers will be forced to seek help from local charities that are already strained.
I am often asked, "Who are the hungry?" The majority of Mainers facing food insecurity are seniors, disabled persons and children.
One in four children in Maine faces hunger. Children, through no fault of their own, are being set up to fail because they lack the food they need to thrive.
The majority of people who need help have either already worked their entire life, are too young to work, or are unable to work. We must feed them. So much energy and money is spent on fixing society's problems, but how many problems could be prevented just by making sure people have food?
president, Good Shepherd Food Bank