Maine Legislature

House Democratic Office





February 11, 2012

Contact: Jodi Quintero [Nelson], 287-1488, c. 841-6279




Rep. Nelson: LePage education agenda wrong choice for Maine



Good morning, Iím Democratic State Representative Mary Nelson from Falmouth.


For the past three years, I have served the people of my community and the state on the Legislatureís Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Weíve had the opportunity to hear directly from parents, teachers, students, and business leaders about whatís most important for Maineís classrooms.


If youíre a parent, you want to make sure your child gets the best education.


If youíre a teacher, you want to make sure all of your students are making the grade.


If you run a business, you want to make sure our classrooms are training the workforce of the future.


We all share these goals.  How we get there is the challenge.  Earlier this week, the governor unveiled several new education initiatives that will only make it harder to achieve our shared goals.


Heís proposed initiatives that will hurt our local schools and communities and pit Mainers against each other.


The legislation would allow all students to attend schools outside their districts, permit giving public taxpayer dollars to private religious schools, and put our hard working teachers at risk.


The governorís proposal to allow unbridled school choice in our state will have a damaging impact on local taxes and local school budgets. Our local schools are already working to do more with less.  His proposal will only make that job harder.


The governorís proposal also allows your tax dollars to be sent to churches and religious institutions.  In fact, state and local tax dollars could be sent to religious schools and you, as a taxpayer, would have no say over it.  Thatís simply wrong.


Maine's school population is already declining.  If schools begin losing students to nearby schools, many will likely face closure and school boards will not be able to budget with any certainty.


The ripple effect would be felt across our communities. Ultimately, the program will put more of a burden on property tax payers, especially in rural Maine, where resources are already scarce. This is last thing we should be doing when middle class and working class families are struggling to keep money in their pockets.


Instead, we should be doing everything we can to strengthen our public schools so every child in Maine has the opportunity to get a top rate education.  Not just some children. One child shouldnít benefit at the expense of another.  The governorís proposal does nothing to improve our schools yet does everything to create an education system of the ďhavesĒ and ďhave nots.Ē


In addition to undermining our public school system, the governorís proposal will also put our teachers at risk. Teachers are the single most important resource to a childís learning.


We must ensure that teachers are supported in the classroom, while also holding them more accountable. The governorís proposal wonít do that. Instead of focusing on ways to improve standards for teachers, his proposal allows superintendents and principals to unfairly punish teachers and fire them without cause or reason. 


Attacking basic workplace rights of teachers wonít help our children.


We all want a world class education system in our state.  We will only accomplish that if we focus our resources, involve the community, engage parents, train and support teachers, and invest in our children.


The governorís proposals wonít move us in the right direction. 


A quality education should not be determined by a zip code, nor by the ability of a parent to transport a child to a school out of their community.  We owe it to every Maine student to have access to an excellent education no matter where they live, and to provide support to teachers in every corner of the state.


Thank you for listening. Iím Representative Mary Nelson. Have great weekend!