BRUNSWICK — Citing dismal statistics regarding Maine high school graduates’ readiness for college, Gov. Paul LePage called Monday for tougher education standards.

LePage focused on education during a speech at an event praising efforts to redevelop the Brunswick Naval Air Station. He also repeated his campaign call for greater emphasis on vocational and technical training.

About half of Maine high school graduates who enroll in the state’s community college system need to take at least one remedial course, said LePage. The same is true for about one-quarter of high school graduates in Maine’s university system, he said.

“We need to do better,” LePage said. “That is absolutely unacceptable and we are working very hard at transforming our education system so that we do one thing – that we educate our kids to their fullest potential.”

John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System, said students take a test to measure their preparedness college-level courses. In many cases, they are not ready in just one subject area.

“That’s the dilemma, that you have people who are deficient in a certain subject area while they can take other college work and be successful,” Fitzsimmons said in an interview.

That lack of preparedness – even in just a subject or two – adds to tuition costs.

“Maine families are spending $1 million more to get remediation,” Fitzsimmons said. “(Students) graduated from high school in June, and in September they are spending $1 million so they can do college work.”

According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, 34 percent of all students entering college nationwide needed at least one remedial class. Among students entering community college, 43 percent required remedial education.

During his speech, LePage highlighted the importance of technical training for some of the redevelopment projects touted Monday, including plans to build Kestrel Aircraft Co. airplanes in Brunswick.

“This airplane could not be built without good technicians, and we need to make sure that we provide them, for this facility and all the facilities like it throughout the state,” said LePage, referring to a Kestrel airplane on display.

LePage, speaking to reporters after his speech, said education reform will be a major part of his administration’s agenda.

“Our education system is in real tough shape right now,” he said. “The first thing we are going to do is name a commissioner shortly, and from there we are going to be pushing forward on the commitments I made.”

LePage said he wants to “beef up the standards” and work toward creating five-year high school programs that would award associate’s degrees to graduates.

His goals also include bringing vocational and technical education back into the “mainstream,” and working to lower the state’s high school dropout rate.

When asked if his budget will include “big cuts” to education, LePage said, “No. That’s all I’m going to say.”

MaineToday State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]