Since 2011, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, born of a multibillion-dollar student loan sale to Sallie Mae, has pumped over $13 million in grants to nonprofits and public schools in Maine to promote their agenda of having all Maine schools award “proficiency-based” diplomas.

The mandate, enacted in 2012, requires that all students demonstrate “proficiency” in eight subject areas in order to receive a high school diploma.

Championed by the Nellie Mae-funded Educate Maine, and our own Department of Education, this law has allowed the Great Schools Partnership and the Reinventing Schools Coalition – also beneficiaries of multimillion-dollar Nellie Mae grants – to establish contracts with local school districts as they transition to this new way of structuring our local schools.

The law, which these organizations have gone to great lengths to promote as a progressive, “student-centered” method of learning, is in fact an attempt to push virtual and online learning on our public schools.

The 2012 law, “An Act To Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy,” is listed as model legislation on the website of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which partners with the far-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, well known for its efforts to privatize public education.

Despite the millions invested by Nellie Mae, this transition has been difficult for many Maine districts.

Meanwhile, companies like Microsoft, Apple and startup software companies like JumpRope have received thousands from local school budgets to support this new, unproven model of learning, leaving little behind for needs like additional teachers and educational technicians.

It’s time to take a closer look at who is responsible for this overhaul of our public schools, and to ask who truly stands to benefit from these changes. Support L.D. 579, the proposal to repeal the “proficiency-based” diploma mandate.

Emily Talmage

Auburn