Former Gov. Paul LePage on Monday unveiled a new education agenda that proposes to start vocational and technical education as early as middle school and a “Parents Bill of Rights” to give parents more power to shield their children from sensitive materials.
LePage, a Republican who is seeking a third nonconsecutive term as governor, is also calling for “true school choice” so public education funds follow students to “a public school, private school, charter school, or parochial school.”
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision found that Maine violated the Constitution by refusing to make public funds available to students who attend schools that provide religious instruction.
LePage is challenging Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, who is seeking her second term. Beals physician Sam Hunkler, an independent, will be on the Nov. 8 ballot as well.
The Mills campaign did not respond to a request for comment on LePage’s education proposals. But the Maine Democratic Party said that during his eight years as governor, LePage cut public school funding and “attacked and criticized teachers.”
“Maine has a longstanding tradition of local control, one in which we empower parents and school boards to work together to decide what belongs in schools and classrooms,” Drew Gattine, Maine Democratic Party chairman, said. “Now, LePage is taking a national Republican playbook and trying to import it into Maine — putting government square in the middle of these discussions to play referee.”
As governor, Mills increased funding for public education to 55% for the first time in state history and expanded pre-kindergarten programs.
The LePage plan calls for shifting education dollars to provide new after school care until 5 p.m. to help working parents and providing incentives for teachers and schools to help students who fell behind during the pandemic.
Part of the LePage “Parents Bill of Rights” directs local school boards to post meetings online to promote public participation and focus on the topics such as math, science and reading.
“Frankly, as a society, we cannot afford to give up on a single child,” LePage said in a press release.