On May 29, 2012 Gov. Paul LePage vetoed: An Act To Restructure the National Board Certification Program for Teachers— a measure to improve teaching standards in Maine.
“Maine students deserve every opportunity to succeed. This bill was an investment to ensure we have the best teachers in every classroom,” said Sen. Justin Alfond who sponsored the bill and also serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “Instead of strengthening our classrooms, improving our teachers, and giving our students a fair shot, the governor complained about the teachers’ union. He is putting politics ahead of what’s best.”
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.”
The bill received unanimous support in the Education and Cultural Affairs committee and strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. 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.
The actual 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.
“Teachers are the foundation for a successful public education and we know that the most effective teachers are also life-long learners. The governor’s veto essentially sends a message to teachers that their learning is not important,” said Alfond.
Currently, Maine is in the bottom 20 percent of states when it comes to Board Certified teachers. 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 Legislature will reconvene on May 31 to take up all of the vetoes. Overturning a veto requires votes from two-thirds of lawmakers in each legislative body.