Radio Address: The Power of Choice can Help Our Children Succeed

June 18, 2011

(MP3 Audio)

More than 13-thousand Maine Seniors have graduated from High School this spring.

Hi, this is Governor Paul LePage.

Graduates are entering into a new chapter of their lives. And it’s an exciting time for our young people. Many of these students will continue their education at a public university or community college.

65 percent of Maine graduates enrolled last year in some form of post-secondary education.

What I’m most concerned about, however, is the fact that a quarter of those students who went on to a public university in Maine required a remedial course to catch them up to a level where they should have been when they graduated high school.

This is unacceptable. Maine can do better and this Administration is acknowledging the change that needs to happen.

Regardless of how hard we’ve tried and how much money we’ve spent, our public schools simply haven’t managed to equip many of our students with the skills they need to succeed in college.

The Department of Education cannot transform our system alone. We will need your help.

As part of a 100 day listening tour, Education Commissioner Steve Bowen has been reaching out to students, teachers and administrators to find solutions. In the coming weeks the Commissioner will take the feedback he’s received and use it to put together a strategic plan for education in Maine. Our students and parents need options. Maine is one of 10 states that don’t allow charter schools. Because every student learns differently, charter schools that concentrate on specific areas of learning will be an asset to our public education system.

Our students should also have the opportunity to enroll full-time in career and technical education courses at our vocational schools.

There’s no doubt our young people need to be motivated and must work hard to accomplish their goals. We can help improve their success rate by giving students and parents the power of choice.

We also need to focus on STEM education. Our economy, global and local, depends on the understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM education. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our industrial base. The foundation of innovation is based on a solid knowledge in math, science and engineering.

This week I signed a bill that creates a STEM Council. Their job will be to develop strategies for enhancing and promoting STEM education both in and out of school.

I’ve also given my signature to another important bill that requires teaching civics to our students. Our lessons in the classroom about history, economics, literature, and other subjects do enhance students' understanding of government and politics, however, they cannot replace sustained, systematic attention to civics education.

We should expect our young people to be engaged citizens and many are, but we can do a better job teaching our students how they can be actively involved in our communities and government. We must never underestimate the power of the people and remember politicians don’t hold all the power unless we let them.

As the first Franco-American Governor I’m proud that the Department of Education is working on a guide to Maine history to include Franco-American culture. It’s crucial our youth understand who paved the way before them and how the past is linked to the present and future.

Shaping Maine students into good stewards of the State will take a collaborative effort. It will take more than what we have been offering today in our public school system. We must give our educators the tools they need and set the bar high. It’s not only our children we are concerned about – it is our future as a State and as a People.

Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoy the weekend.