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In the last legislative session, Maine Governor Paul LePage pushed education reform changes to help kids in his state. His agenda included tougher teacher and principal evaluations, and the switch to a proficiency-based high school diploma. The legislature did not, however, pass school choice legislation. Yesterday, a school choice work group in Maine met for the first time to determine if and how school choice will be implemented in Maine.
The group, comprised of officials from state education unions and gubernatorial appointees, will research school choice options and make recommendations to the state legislature in January. Maine currently has school choice, but it is limited both in scope and in parental empowerment. In the current system, a child can change school districts, but this must be approved by the superintendent. Town academies are also in operation, and can accept kids from towns and districts that don't have their own high schools. This still leaves a lot of children in Maine needing better options.
Unfortunately, there are partisan divides on how best to improve education for these children. Democrats believe that enough improvements can be made to existing public schools to make other options, such as charter schools or open enrollment, unnecessary. Democratic Senate candidate Colleen Quint argues that “I think there are so many opportunities to work within the existing public school structure to provide new programs, new support for teachers and, especially, new support for kids, that that's what we really ought to be focused on.”
Republicans, on the other hand, believe that Maine needs to look to other models to improve education. Republican Senator, and member of the Legislature's Education Committee says that "I feel that the Democrats have consistently tried to block progress and block choice in the public schools."
Fortunately, LePage seems determined for parents in Maine to have more options when it comes to the education of their children. We will be watching to see what those options are.