Despite the onslaught of state and national criticism about his most recent attack on public schools, Gov. Paul LePage continues to tout his ABC plan for educational improvement, becoming even more aggressive in maligning education leaders in Maine.

In his weekly radio address on July 28, LePage said that he had to come up with radical measures in response to the recently released Harvard study of academic improvement among students in 49 states.

One such measure: legislation that would force school districts to pay for remedial college classes, because, “Superintendents, union bosses and principals have not shared their plans (to improve education) with me.”

The implication of that statement is that they have no such plans. This is an unconscionable misrepresentation.

Surprisingly, in introducing his ABCs last week, the governor made no reference to the three work groups developing the state’s robust plan for school improvement, already under way at the Capitol.

The Accountability and Improvement System is the most comprehensive public school reform plan this state has ever seen and was formed in part to fulfill statutory language that the governor signed into law.

The commissioner of education and other Department of Education staff preside over the work groups, which are composed of a diverse set of public school and community stakeholders, including some of the very education leaders LePage says have “not shared their plans” with him.

As a teacher appointed by the Maine Education Association to the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council work group, I have spent many hours this summer with superintendents, principals, school board members and their “union bosses,” along with business executives, higher education officials and fellow teachers.

Conflicts sometimes arise in a room full of diverse professional interests, but the people on these councils share a common interest in and commitment to providing all of Maine’s children with a viable education. We are working diligently and collaboratively to shape the system that will guide school leaders and teachers in that endeavor.

Contrary to what he claims, LePage is fully aware of all of this, having commissioned the work himself, and it is he who is not sharing.

Instead, he is wielding his own unilateral plan like a weapon, publicly insulting and threatening even his own people and making false allegations. His words also have drawn attention from the federal education department, which will decide, based on the work of the three work groups, whether to award Maine a waiver to give us flexibility in meeting the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

LePage would have served Maine public schools and their students better if he had used the Harvard study’s release to honor the hard work and commitment of the associations and individuals who are developing the Accountability and Improvement System.

He could have asked his commissioner to report about the work of the councils, or better yet, asked representatives of the many associations on the council to give briefings. He could have asked superintendents, principals and teachers to describe their district strategic plans for implementing the new system.

He could have done a lot of things to broadcast the intensive work we are doing in Maine to improve our public schools and gain control of No Child Left Behind.

Instead, LePage lambasted us. It might seem reasonable to conclude that, by publicly undermining the collective efforts of those who are carrying out his own marching orders, the governor of Maine has shot himself in the foot. Except that’s usually an accident.

Mary Paine teaches English in Oakland and is an MEA representative to the Maine Educator Effectiveness Council work group of the Accountability and Improvement System. The public can view the composition and monitor the progress of this and the other work groups at Maine’s DOE website.

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