A lot of harsh words are thrown around during a campaign, and Gov.-elect Paul LePage was on the receiving end of many of them, particularly regarding his positions on education.

But now that the votes have been cast the rhetoric can die away. Although there is still considerable flesh that has to be added to the policy bones that LePage campaigned on, we like much of what he proposed in regards to education reform, which includes ideas that we have been championing for some time.

LePage supports public charter schools, funded from the same sources as traditional schools. Charter schools have a mixed track record, but the best ones serve as innovative laboratories for new approaches to teaching and learning.

They also offer school districts a way to pilot alternative programs, like schools that meet at night, during the weekend or combine with a vocational focus, which could bring dropouts back into education.

Charter legislation was supported by Gov. Baldacci and his Department of Education, but he could not get it past the Democratic-controlled Legislature. That will no longer be an obstacle.

MERIT PAY

LePage also supports linking teacher evaluation with student performance. This is a complex issue and it can be handled well or badly, but there are tools to measure a teacher’s effect on a class, and they should at least play a partial role in how a teacher is evaluated.

LePage says that evaluation should be used to determine teacher compensation, and we agree.

As governor, LePage has promised to eliminate the district-by-district disparity in regards to special education designations. He calls for a single statewide standard for eligibility, as is done in other states that spend far less than Maine on special education.

This is a difficult issue for families that feel they are better represented at the district level when they advocate for their child, but looking at less expensive, but still fair, methods for determining eligibility for these programs is worthwhile.LePage had one of the most interesting education ideas of any candidate during the campaign, which we hope was not just electioneering.

He proposed an optional fifth year of high school, in which a student can graduate with either an associate’s degree or two years of transferable college credit.

This would be a financial boon to families that struggle to afford higher education and could improve the educational attainment of people coming into the Maine workforce.

THE RIGHT TEAM

As important as the reform ideas is what kind of team LePage will assemble to carry them out. The name of his commissioner of education is one of the details of the transition process that will make a big difference in how much is accomplished.

But no party has a monopoly on good ideas and talented administrators, and we hope the LePage administration will have both when it comes to education policy.

Because, while there were considerable differences between the candidates on policy specifics, all of the contenders agreed that Maine needs to do a better job of delivering education at a lower cost to children throughout the state.

In campaign shorthand, LePage was branded as anti-education by one of his rivals.

We don’t think that he is, and we’d like to see at least some of his ideas tried in Maine schools.