The chuckling you hear is coming from the second floor of the State House, where the governor and his staff have put another good one over on their enemies upstairs in the House and Senate.

Instead of nominating someone to fill the top job at the Department of Education, Gov. LePage named former Husson University President William Beardsley to serve as “acting commissioner” – the third acting commissioner the department has had since Commissioner Steven Bowen resigned in 2013.

Good one, right?

LePage gets to put a buddy in charge of one of the most important departments of state government, and Beardsley doesn’t even have to sit in front of a legislative committee to answer a lot of stupid questions, like “What did you mean in 2010 when you said that you would teach ‘creationism’ in public school?”

Instead, Beardsley gets to pull a commissioner’s paycheck for up to six months, at which point LePage would have to formally nominate him, or name someone else to take a turn in an acting role.

In the meantime, the department can just keep rolling along, spending about $1.2 billion of the people’s money every year.


The law says that an acting commissioner has to first be an employee of the department to be eligible, but the governor’s people fixed that by hiring Beardsley for a lesser position just a few hours before he was elevated to the top job.

And doesn’t it make the Legislature look ridiculous? The governor sneaks around the law, which says that an education commissioner has to be vetted by the state Board of Education as well as the Senate, and there’s not a thing any of the people’s representatives can do about it!

Yep, the Legislature looks bad, but they are not the only losers here. The other big ones are the people of Maine, who have to fund the department even if the governor doesn’t feel like putting someone in charge.

This is especially a problem for people who think that Maine’s education system is less than perfect the way it is. The governor’s failure to replace Bowen (except for a brief period when James Rier went from acting commissioner to commissioner in a few months before his retirement) shows that the administration has given up on any kind of reform agenda and will be satisfied with criticizing public schools and teachers, without bothering to make anything better.

The governor has pulled a fast one, all right, and he must be very proud of himself. But why he would think that sneaking around the intent if not the letter of the law would accomplish anything but amuse his friends is anybody’s guess.

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