Maine Lawmakers override Gov. Lepage ideological veto of teacher training

The Governor vetoed the bill for ideological reasons

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

May 31st, 2012

The Maine Senate voted to override Governor Paul LePage’s veto of a teacher training bill, LD 1781 by a vote of 26–9, the Maine House vote was 129-12.

“Every child deserves the most effective teacher in their classroom. Supporting this program strengthens our teachers and gives our students the best opportunity for success,” said Senator Justin Alfond, the sponsor of the bill. “We know that the most effective teachers are also life-long learners. And I am proud that today we supported our teachers.”

The bill received unanimous support in the Education and Cultural Affairs committee and strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

“Today we sent a strong message to Maine people: our students and teachers must come before political games,” said Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic leader. “Our students and our schools need the best trained teachers to prepare them for the competitive economy. Better teachers in the classroom will mean a better education for our children.”

Currently, Maine is in the bottom 20 percent of states when it comes to Board Certified teachers.

“If we don’t support our absolute best teachers with this small measure of extra support, we are saying that their extra efforts are worth the exact same as the absolute worst teacher who simply worked the same number of years,” said Rep. Devin Beliveau, who is teacher, during a floor debate on the bill.

The bill encourages and provides incentives for teachers to attain national certification from a preeminent, national certification program. Five years ago, the Legislature created a stipend program set at $3,000 to incentivize teachers enlisting into the National Board Certification Program (NBCP). However the NBCP stipend has been reduced and currently sits at $1,950. The measure returned the salary stipend to $3,000 by 2014-2015. Additionally, the bill created a scholarship fund to encourage more teachers to enter into the NBCP.

Out of an estimated 15,000 public school teachers in Maine, only 158 are National Board Certified. National Board Certification is administered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The certification is valid for 10 years, and may be renewed. The rigorous, multi-year process is an advanced teaching credential. As part of the certification process candidates complete 10 assessments that are reviewed by trained teachers in their certificate areas and spend up to 400 hours completing the program.

The Governor vetoed the bill for ideological reasons.

“Instead of strengthening our classrooms, improving our teachers, and giving our students a fair shot, the governor complained about the teachers’ union. He is put politics ahead of what’s best,” said Alfond.

It is obvious to many that the Governor’s unfounded concern with the bill has more to do with last week’s announcement of Maine’s Education Association’s (MEA’s) support for the Mainers United marriage equality campaign than about the bill itself.

“LD 1781 requires teachers to partially fund the program, while simultaneously paying union dues which are squandered on a host of activities not even remotely related to professional development,” said LePage. “The MEA announced its endorsement recently of the same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot. This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development.”

Sen. Troy Jackson a member of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee believes that LePage is focused on his ideological agenda.

“The laws of the United States bars anyone from being forced to join a Union. At the same time the Supreme Court has upheld ‘service fees’ to be constitutional. The Unions have to be very careful when they collect money from non-union, fair share payers that the money isn’t spent on political activities. They are subject to audit at anytime. His claims are just untrue,” said Jackson.