By Ramona du Houx
On February 11th , Gov. Paul LePage announced that he would install himself as Commissioner of the Department of Education in name only, and make Bill Beardsley his deputy commissioner. Perhaps LePage is feeling Donald Trump has trumped his national headlines and is looking for Maine headlines. Perhaps, he's playing his old tricks of distracting the Maine press enough so real issues, that the legislature are dealing with on a daily basis are over looked. Perhaps he knows his tax conformity idea would never win approval so he needs a big distraction. In any case he has tried to appoint himself Commissioner of the Department of Education.
What's really behind LePage's sudden desire to become Education Commissioner?
Beardsley was named acting commissioner in October of 2015. However, an acting commissioner may only lead an executive department for up to six months. Gov. LePage’s actions seem designed to continue allowing Beardsley to operate as the de facto commissioner despite having never been confirmed by the Maine Senate.
“The governor is making a mockery of both the importance of the commissioner’s role and of educating our children,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, the lead Senate Democrat on the Education Committee. “For whatever reason, he doesn’t believe Mr. Beardsley will be confirmed by the Legislature. But instead of letting the confirmation process play out, he’s trying to bend the rules so that he can hand-pick the state’s top education official without bothering with pesky Constitutional requirements like confirmation.”
As dictated by Maine’s Constitution, the governor may appoint top officials of executive departments, but those appointments must be confirmed by the Maine Senate after confirmation hearings by the legislative committee of jurisdiction. Gov. LePage pulled Beardsley’s nomination out of fear he would not be confirmed.
"The governor should stop fooling around with this important position. He needs to respect how important this role is to students, educators and the taxpayers of this state,” said Rep. Tori Kornfield, D-Bangor, House chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “As I have said before, Education Committee members were ready to have a substantive, transparent discussion on the future of education and the interests of Maine students and their families. We stand prepared to do so for whomever the governor puts forward for this highly important position. We have a process that the governor must not circumvent.”
Democrats on the Education Committee have always said that they are willing and ready to hear Mr. Beardsley and consider his nomination for commissioner of the Department of Education.