Politics

September 5, 2013

LePage emphasizes Maine educational autonomy

The governor says there will be no federal overreach into Common Core State Standards.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Last week, state Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen sent a letter to the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce spelling out that the state wouldn't share personally identifiable student data, or link the state data system with any other state or federal database.

Specifically, Maine does not even collect personally identifiable student data at the state level. Only local districts have a student's name and Social Security number, and if that number is somehow passed on to the state Department of Education office, it is removed, said department spokeswoman Samantha Warren. Instead, all Maine students are assigned a unique number that is used to track their progress anonymously throughout their educational career.

"For the most part, there is no data we provide to the federal government that any Maine parent can't see for themselves in the Data Warehouse," said Warren, referring to statistical information available on the department's website.

Maine regularly provides aggregate student data to the U.S. Department of Education for a variety of reasons, from seeking grant money to mandatory test score results. But the data does not provide any identifiable information.

The Maine Equal Rights Center is collecting signatures for the ballot proposal. They will have to collect more than 57,000 by February to get on the November 2014 ballot.

Organizers said the ballot effort would continue, despite the governor's executive order.

"Politically it's a great gesture, but it doesn't change anything," said Erick Bennett, founder of the Maine Equal Rights Center.

He said the governor and state legislators "didn't understand" Common Core and the information from state officials wasn't true.

"The unfortunate thing about politics is that people lie. It's unfortunate but true," said Erick Bennett, adding that the main issue is that national education standards violates state's rights. Anti-Common Core legislation, backed primarily by conservatives, has been introduced in several states, including Alabama and Missouri. In Michigan, Republicans recently blocked state funding for implementation while they evaluate cost and other implications.

Small-government advocates and tea party groups say the standards are an example of federal overreach. The Republican National Committee passed a resolution opposing the standards and conservative radio host Glenn Beck has spoken against them on his show. This spring, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and eight other Republican senators signed a letter seeking to defund all Common Core-related initiatives at the Department of Education.

But education reformers such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and Students First leader Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, both strongly support the changes. The more liberal American Federation of Teachers supports the standards, but opposes "high-stakes" testing that ties students' test results to teacher evaluations or school sanctions.

Noel Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherrald.com

Correction: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 to clarify that No Common Core Maine is not part of the referendum drive.

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