LePage’s education plan won’t pass, but his rhetoric hurts Maine

Disclosure: I hold a faculty position at the University of Maine. My children were or are enrolled in the Bangor school system, which includes the largest high school in the state and a high school ranked as among the best in the nation.

In talking about K-12 education in Maine, Governor LePage said:

I don’t care where you go in this country. If you come from Maine you’re looked down upon. Twenty years ago if you came from Maine, they couldn’t wait to get you into their school.

And, according to one report:

LePage said the College of William and Mary in Virginia, for example, requires Maine students to take a placement exam before even considering their applications, but college spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan said there are no separate exam requirements based on a student’s state of residency.

The governor’s rhetoric is negative — and incorrect. The second comment, on William and Mary, is obviously wrong and the first has no basis in evidence.

Maine students perform above the national average in nearly every test — often in the top ten states.

Of course, there is room for improvement.

But the idea that people in other states don’t want Maine students is absurd. Close to home, Bangor schools are among the best in the country. They regularly send students to the top institutions in the nation and their graduates do well.  Again, the state can do better, but there is no basis to the governor’s claims.

One of LePage’s proposals on education — to make school districts pay for remedial education for students — has no chance of ever passing. It would undermine local school districts, making it harder for them to deliver education, and it goes against the state’s unfulfilled obligations for supporting school funding.

Still, the rhetoric hurts Maine. If the governor of one’s state says the state’s graduates are not respected, this encourages others to think so as well.

It’s an awful shame that the governor continues to misinterpret the Harvard study. As I’ve noted before, it did not say that Maine students performed poorly, but rather than Maine has not improved as much as elsewhere.

Finally, as the Portland Press Herald points out, while LePage touts school choice as a key, “The fastest-improving state, however, was Maryland, which does not have open enrollment, but there is open enrollment in two of the lowest-ranked states, Iowa and Wisconsin.”

Thus the governor presents a combination of a solution that won’t work, a plan to make school districts pay that can’t pass, and very negative rhetoric that makes Maine look bad and is ungrounded in reality.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.