LePage asks Charter School Commission members to resign

7:35 PM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor Paul LePage is calling on the members of the state's Charter School Commission to resign, after they rejected 4 of 5 applications before them Tuesday.

"For the good of the kids of the state of Maine, please go away. We need someone who has a backbone," the governor said.

This is the second time LePage has asked for the members' resignation. He also did it this summer, when the applications of two virtual charter schools also were rejected. Two of the 4 applicants this time also were virtual schools.

At a time when the governor wants to change Maine's law to allow for more than 10 charter schools, the state's charter school commission has approved just 2 so far, with 2 more given a preliminary OK. The governor believes the commission rejected 4 of the 5 applications before this week because it was intimidated by the Maine School Board Association, which was talking about intervening in the process.

Charter School Commission Chair Jana LaPoint says that's not true. "There was nothing that was done yesterday that we had any pressure from anyone to do," she said.

LaPoint said the failed proposals simply did not meet the commission's requirements in its request for proposals. She said one that was turned down needed almost $150,000 and didn't seem to have a way to get the money. "That was too much money to start a new school and not know where that money's coming from," LaPoint said. "They thought that money was going to drop out of the sky from the federal government and we know that money isn't coming."

LePage said, "They're giving you excuses. But that's not the truth. Quite frankly, if that's what she said to you, she's lying."

But the governor's frustrations reach further than the charter commission. He said the Maine Education Association and the state's superintendents protect the status quo at the expense of students. "We have some of the lowest paid teachers in the country here in the state of Maine. And what does the union do? They just collect their union dues," LePage said.

The governor says he's very passionate about education, and he will continue to push back at those who reject his ideas for reform.

Lois Kilby-Chesley, the president of the MEA said, "Certainly we dont' want to be seen as blockers in anything, but what we do need to do is have a conversation, civil conversation between all the stakeholders when it comes to education."

Tuesday, the MEA held a news conference, calling the governor out for the state's continued failure to fund 55 percent of local education costs. Kilby-Chesley said that message needs to get out. "It's important that everyone be aware of the fact that schools are not getting the money that voters said in a referendum in 2004 schools should be getting," she said.

The governor also objected the idea that he wasn't committed to funding education. "They're all screaming that we're cutting cutting cutting and there's no money. This administration has put more money in education than any previous administration," LePage said.


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