I read last Friday that Gov. LePage issued a change to his budget proposal that would eliminate funding for the Civil Rights Team Project in our state.

I suppose that the governor can make proposals, no matter what the obvious consequences might be; however, our system of government has checks and balances. That is the role of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. I urge committee members: Please do not accept elimination of this program.

I am a teacher in Maine, and I work with at-risk youth as part of my job every day. I have seen and heard the rise of hate speech, violence and ignorant and offensive comments. I have seen the effects of this behavior.

Make no mistake: The negative atmosphere created by these actions is not limited to minority students, gay students, immigrant students, female students and disabled students. This atmosphere affects all students. Maine students will not compete in our economy if they are not learning in an optimal atmosphere. The Civil Rights Team Project is the first line of defense against hate in our state.

I have heard racist remarks directly from Gov. LePage. He stands by them. He says that political correctness makes it more difficult to deliver his message. I am here to say that I do not wish for political correctness, simply correctness.

I am not sure what the total cost is for the Civil Rights Team Project, but Appropriations Committee members should ask themselves: How does that cost compare with the $4.4 million spent in one year on Smarter Balanced testing? Which one produces more tangible results for our students and our communities?

I thank the Appropriations Committee for the time that they give to the state of Maine and its citizens.

Geoffrey Slack