It’s time to stand up against Gov. LePage’s anti-education agenda

It’s time to stand up against Gov. LePage’s anti-education agenda

I got my first taste of Maine politics in 2011, when, as a sophomore Education major at the University of Maine at Farmington, a recently-elected Governor LePage vowed to balance the budget deficit created by giving new tax breaks for the rich on the backs of state workers and Maine teachers, gutting their pensions and reneging on a settled employment contract. When I saw my professional mentors getting put through the wringer, my peers and I decided to speak out in solidarity for hard-working educators around the state who were locked in a battle for their current and our future livelihoods.

That moment was a watershed for me because it illustrated the ferocity with which LePage and his right-wing allies were working to actively dismantle our public education system, and drive prospective teachers like myself away from an already embattled profession (and whose pay ranked near bottom in the nation before those proposed cuts would have even taken place). The memory of the naked contempt that the governor showed for teachers through his words and actions remains with me today.

While LePage’s disdain for Maine public schools and their employees is well documented, the voice of the Maine people on the matter stands in clear contrast. Mainers voted overwhelmingly in 2004 to compel the state government to fund 55% of Maine school costs and give students and educators the resources that they require to thrive in the classroom; a mandate that under LePage’s watch continues to go unmet.

Just last week, the governor doubled down (as he often does) on his opposition to this law passed by the citizens of Maine by making the legally dubious claim that the state government is constitutionally prohibited from providing any money at all for public schools, in what is just the latest salvo in a scorched-earth campaign to attack public school teachers, the unions that represent them, public education as an institution, and ultimately students themselves.

Much like in 2003, however, Mainers are again rising up to not only demand that the governor complies with the law requiring a strong partnership between local and state government in meeting the evolving needs of the modern classroom, but that this state funding be acquired by ensuring that the very wealthiest in this state, those that earn $200,000 or more per year (or nearly six times the starting salary of the average Maine educator) pay their fair share in in the funding of our schools.

Mainers are beginning to wake up to the reality that our governor and his shrinking band of Republican allies will do whatever they can to further enrich those who possess the most in society, including by gutting an institution that has the ability to empower those who possess the least in society with the tools necessary to change their circumstance.

This movement for a referendum is a vigorous rejection of LePage’s anti-education philosophy and a reaffirmation of the longstanding belief in America that the universal access to a quality education is the life-blood pumping through the heart of a vibrant democracy.

About author

Grady Burns
Grady Burns 36 posts

Grady Burns is an activist on issues involving young Mainers. He serves on the Auburn City Council and is president of the Maine Young Democrats.

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