Politics

January 12, 2013

Backer of virtual charter schools defends independence

But the leader of the Charter School Commission says doubts about oversight led to rejections of two applications this week.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Amy Carlisle (file photo)

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

The commission has come under fire this week for rejecting the two proposed virtual schools and two of three “brick-and-mortar” charter school applicants. Gov. Paul LePage blasted the commission in a fiery Wednesday news conference, claiming they had rejected these and two brick-and-mortar charter schools because of “intimidation” by the state’s teachers union and school superintendents association and called for the commissioners to resign.

“I am asking them for the good of the kids of the state of Maine, please go away,” LePage said of the commissioners. “We don’t need you. We need some people with backbones.”

Speaking on WGAN radio Friday morning, Education Commissioner Steven Bowen said the governor’s accusations stemmed from a meeting Bowen held with the charter commissioners and LePage’s senior policy adviser John Nass. Bowen said one of the charter commissioners had said in the meeting that “the fact that the school board association had gotten lawyered up intimidated him.”

“My concern with what happened this week is the potentially chilling effect it would have on all the folks in Maine who may have good ideas and interesting and innovative approaches to create charter schools,” Bowen said.

LaPoint said one of her fellow charter commissioners had made such a comment, but the person hadn’t said the intimidation affected his or her decision on the charter schools. She said the commissioners had already come to those decisions prior to learning that the Maine Superintendent’s Association was considering legal intervention if one of the applicants was approved.

“If you had any idea how independent our commission feels about how we go about out work and the steps we do!” LaPoint said. “When you get subcommittees and the full commission all voting unanimously on these applications, that’s not coming from intimidation.”

“If we were to be intimidated, we would be intimidated by the governor,” she said. “He didn’t intimidate us, either.”

This is not the first time LePage has lashed out at the charter commission. He also suggested they resign in June, after they declined to approve the same two virtual schools.

Bowen defended the governor’s intentions. The governor “believes that the educational opportunities that he got saved his life, got him off the street and turned him towards the future he’s got,” Bowen told WGAN. “He’s extraordinarily passionate about education. Does he always say things the way I would say them? Probably not. And he would be the first to say that.”

LePage, who fled an abusive home at age 11 and has said he had poor grades in high school, was able to attend Husson College through the intervention and financial assistance of two local businessmen.

“He wants the right thing to happen for kids,” Bowen said.

 

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:
cwoodard@pressherald.com

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