Weekly Message

Governor Paul R. LePage

September 7, 2012

Official Photograph of Governor LePage

Radio Address: Putting Students First

September 7, 2012

It is truly amazing to me as I see in situation after situation that when it comes to education, we are debating the needs of adults and administrators over the needs of students.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

The new school year is just beginning across Maine and we continue to work here in Augusta to advance an education agenda that puts students first.

Our students-first agenda, though, is under attack.

Just this past weekend, two newspaper articles addressed two different, but related, education issues – both about our efforts to give families and students the best possible options in education. The first issue was superintendent transfers, in which two superintendents can agree on letting a student from one school district go to school in another. The other was about the state’s digital learning efforts – a plan for making sure that our students have access to online and virtual learning opportunities to support their education.

In both cases, our education policy was taken to task because of a perception that what we are doing somehow hurts school boards, superintendents or taxpayers. And yet nobody was talking about our core goal: what is best for the students.

I would like to talk about one of those articles and the real facts.

Digital learning is one form of choice that can benefit students. For some reason, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen has been taken to task for seeking the advice of national experts in this area. The newspaper charged that we let that group write our state policy. There’s only one problem: we don’t have a state policy on digital learning yet.

In fact, a stakeholder group was assigned by the Legislature to take up this task, and the group held its first meeting last week. We are a long way from having a digital learning plan for this state. And we badly need one. We are a rural state, and a lot of times smaller school districts can’t offer certain courses, so they turn to online options for their students.

School districts around the state have been asking for guidance on this issue because they have hundreds of students who take online courses now. We have worked with a national advocacy group on some key guidelines, things that just make common sense. Such as: All students should have access to online learning options. Online learning providers should be of high quality, and their courses should be aligned to Maine’s learning standards.

We have to work out details, such as whether we’ll require every teacher, no matter where they teach from, to have Maine certification, or if we’ll arrange for reciprocity with other states, and on what terms. These are far from determined, and are just the kind of thing that the group will be discussing. When they are done, either they or our Department of Education, or the Education Committee itself, will propose legislation that will be discussed in public. Instead of worrying about who wrote the language for not-yet-existent proposals, critics should be worrying about whether those ideas are good for our students. That should be the only litmus test.

Furthermore, the newspaper lied saying that my campaign was paid by an out of state company to push virtual learning. This is a bold face lie.

Despite the misinformation being circulated, we are hard at work building a system of education that is focused on what is best for the student, which is why I am extremely disappointed that a newspaper would use its space to fabricate an issue where none exists; and, more importantly, to stand up in support of the needs and wants of administrators over the best interests of students. It’s time we put more focus on students’ needs first, and less on the wine and cheese elitists who are okay with SOME students having access to expanded educational opportunities like digital learning, but not ALL students. I believe ALL students and ALL families should have access to great learning opportunities, not simply the rich.

I wish our students and teachers a great school year and urge all Mainers to drive carefully now that school is back in session.

*Important Note: Late this week, Maine Today Media (Portland Press Herald) issued a correction for its inaccuracy in its “Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine” as it related to accusing the LePage Election Campaign of taking money from an out-of-state company through RGA Maine.