LePage Claims “Unconstitutional” For State To Fund Schools
A moment from another recent town hall, this one held by Maine Governor Paul LePage at Lewiston High School, is getting some attention:
- “Do you know that it’s unconstitutional in the state of Maine for the state to pay one dollar towards education?” the governor asked the Lewiston audience. “But we’ve never changed the constitution. We’ve been doing it for decades, but it’s [clear] the constitution says the state will only ensure that local communities pay for educating their students at their costs.”
“And I’m meeting with the Chief Justice on Friday to ask why does this continue to happen? And they say, ‘Well, we take the precedent and you’ve been doing it, so we would say you’ve got to continue doing it.’ So if that’s the case, then why are we asking a governor to take an oath to the United States Constitution and an oath to the Maine Constitution when the Constitution doesn’t mean what the Constitution says. It only means what the court says it says when they decide to discuss it in the courts. But that’s a fact.”
Maine Education Association President Lois Chesley-Kilby has responded to the above and other allegations from LePage:
- MEA Responds to LePage’s Comments on School Funding, Unions, Guns in School
At a town hall forum in Lewiston last week, the governor talked about teachers unions not supporting his online education initiatives. He also said the state would never fund education at 55 percent, and said that according to the state constitution, state funding to local schools is “unconstitutional.” He also said he supports allowing teachers and staff to carry guns in school as long as they have the “proper training” and added that it is “stupid to put a sign on the wall that says ‘gun-free zone’” because the sign serves as an invitation for mass shooters to come in. Below is a response to some of those comments from the president of the Maine Education Association, Lois Kilby-Chesley:
Re Online Education:
- In spite of the Governor’s belief in education-by-screen as he mentioned in this Lewiston town hall, the efforts of the teachers who see students every day cannot be matched by any computer program. The Governor is so wrong if he thinks the solution to educating our students is through a screen. There are innumerable ways that educators interact with students that are missed by technology. The nuances of students’ facial expressions, the look of engagement in an activity, knowing when a student really needs someone to listen, are all things no computer program can replicate. Teaching and learning are all about being a human, being a citizen, being a lifelong learner. Teaching and learning are not all exclusively about technology. Technology is only one piece of the education puzzle.
Re School Funding from the State:
Once again the Governor threatens that the Constitution isn’t being followed. He apparently believes that municipalities are responsible for all education costs. But, he either forgets, or doesn’t know, that laws require costs of education be paid by the state (including 55%). School funding by the state would only be unConstitutional if the document prohibited school funding, which it doesn’t. In fact, without state payments to schools how would the Governor propose to fund the charter schools he so loves to promote?
Re Arming Teachers:
The idea of arming educators was discussed in the past and it was quite obvious the Legislature was not willing to risk school safety by having teachers and others carry firearms in our schools. If the Governor proposes educators should be trained to carry guns in classrooms, the MEA will work vehemently against him.
The Maine Education Association represents, and only exists, because our educator members in Maine believe that our organization works to improve schools for our students. We are much more than educator advocates, and continually work for social justice in our classrooms and for our communities.
Re the MEA:
There are many examples that discredit the Governor’s pessimistic view of “the teachers’ union.” We do many things including, in just the last year or so, collecting items — including more than 1,000 pairs of socks — for Togus Veterans’ Hospital, partnering with WMTW on an anti-bullying campaign, partnering with WGME and Good Shepherd Food Bank in School Spirit Challenges in southern Maine, partnering with WABI to collect food for hungry families in north/central Maine, and for the last two years (and again upcoming this year) providing books for Maine students. This year, in partnership with a local Foundation, we will once again be providing every Maine first grader in every public school, a book to begin an at-home library.
In addition, educators in schools across the state take collections of items for those in need, dip into their own pockets to pay for shoes, coats, mittens and food for students, and have an ever-expanding list of ways they help our students and their families.
In addition the MEA Board of Directors and other members have collected materials for schools in need whenever necessary to help them get by very difficult times. (Hall School in Portland had a fire for instance a while back, and members contributed to help them and MEA bought gift cards.)
The Governor, as he is prone to doing, continues to attack public educators by attacking the MEA, as he did again in Lewiston. As I said earlier, the MEA only exists because of our members, so when the Governor attacks MEA he is attacking every one of our hard-working, conscientious teachers, educational support professionals, bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, school secretaries and other MEA members. He needs to learn that education matters, and educators matter, because we are the people who are with our students every day doing our best in spite of his actions that repeatedly demean and devalue our public schools, school employees and students.
Here is the full video of Governor LePage’s town hall.