Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would have required the state to adopt new Common Core-aligned science standards, saying it would be too costly and comes at an already busy time for state educators.

“While I support the desire to ensure that Maine students are well equipped with the best science and engineering education to prepare them for future careers that demand this vital knowledge, this bill would require every school in Maine to rewrite its science curriculum to adapt to a new set of standards without allocating a single dollar either to the Department of Education or to the schools that must carry out this significant, time-consuming work,” he wrote in his May 22 veto message.

LePage said the bill, L.D. 464, would put an “additional burden on our schools while they are already dealing with a new system of annual assessment, working to raise the standards of proficiency needed for graduation and adjust to new teacher evaluation rules all in the same year.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, called the veto “very disappointing” and questioned whether adopting the new standards would be such a burden.

“Yes, it would take manpower in schools to adopt these standards, but science marches on,” he said. “About half of the schools have adopted (the new science standards) already, so it can’t be too onerous to do this.”

Maine was part of a 26-state consortium that developed the standards, known as the Next Generation Science Standards.

Devin said he hoped to override the governor’s veto in the Legislature.

Supporters include the Maine Science Technology Engineering and Math – or STEM – Council, which described the standards as superior to Maine’s current standards and more likely to foster job growth. The new standards place a stronger emphasis on engineering and using the scientific method to solve problems.

Tom Keller of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance said the group hoped the Legislature would overturn the veto. Adopting the science standards should be the same as adopting the Common Core-aligned English and math standards, something the state did several years ago, he said. “It is the future for all of the kids in the state,” Keller said. “Yes, there is a lot on educators’ plates, but there is always a lot on their plates.”

Acting Maine Department of Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin said there was no objection to the standards themselves, just the timing.”A major project like this takes a lot of work and we’re maxed out now,” he said, echoing the governor’s veto message. “It’s too much.”

Desjardin pointed to what has happened to implementing the Common Core English and math tests as a cautionary example.

“This is year four of Common Core and the feedback (this spring) is that the test is too hard. The reason is that they didn’t have time to teach to the level the standards require. The same thing would happen with science,” he said.

Instead, he expects adopting the new science standards will be before the Legislature in the next year or two. “Almost everything says you can wait a year or two, and we’re on track for next year or the year after,” he said. “The schools that want to do it, can. Those who wait have a reason.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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