Gubernatorial Candidates’ Statements on Question 3

I have been rather vocal about my opinion on Question 3.  I thought it was time to give some others a chance.  I have presented some candidate views on Question 3 in one handy place.  An analysis of these views will be coming this weekend.  Read their views after the cut. (Hat tip to Dirigo Blue for the Dem opinions)Eliot Cutler (I)

There’s a much bigger issue as stake here in terms of education than whether or not we consolidate schools in Maine. The important question is whether our schools are producing excellence. Are our kids getting a quality education? And, are we doing so at costs we can afford to pay?

Those are the central questions facing our education system. And the answers are going to be different in different parts of the state. Because of that, consolidation isn’t the right answer everywhere.

With that said, I’m going to vote to sustain the law because I think it’s a set of tools that we just can’t throw out. I think we need to take what’s there and fix it.

The issues to me with Maine’s K-12 education come down to equities, excellence and efficiency and cost-effective performance. Every student in Maine should have an opportunity for an excellent education. I believe every kid in Maine should be able to stay in school and be excited about it. I don’t believe we can write off kids in one part of the state or another part of the state. That’s just not the right approach. I won’t permit it. Our kids are too important. They need and deserve more from us.

We need to figure out how to correct inequities and achieve excellence in a more cost-effective way because in the next few fiscal years we are going to see a budget crunch the likes of which we’ve never seen before here in Maine. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to cut spending on state aid to K-12 education because it’s such a big part of our state budget. When that happens, some towns in Maine are going to be just fine because they can raise the money to make up the difference. But there are a lot of towns in Maine that are not going to have that opportunity. So the gap is going to grow and not narrow. We need to figure out how to narrow that gap because all Maine kids are our kids and every single one of them is entitled to a great education.

Matt Jacobson (R)

I am voting to repeal the School Consolidation plan:  It isn’t delivering, and I cannot support a failed program.  We must find better ways to educate our children – from pre K through 20.  The measure must be around education attainment and job placement, not simply cost savings.

Paul LePage (R)

Question 3 is an interesting dilemma.

Many people seem angered by the fact the consolidation process was what I would call a “ram down” by the Administration.  Therefore, Mainers’ being the independent people they are, may not be trying as hard to make it work as they otherwise would had they had a choice in the matter.  Second, there is definitely two Maine’s.  Rural northern, western and eastern and of course urban southern Maine.  I do not believe one size fits all, nor is it reasonable to expect it will.

In northern Maine our kids spend lots of time on buses. Henceforth, the question is how long is too long to be on a bus going to and from school.  In southern Maine, this is not a problem due to the dense population.  For this reason, I believe people need to have alternatives on where they send their children to school.  I believe parents should have a say in the education of their children.  I support choice and therefore a ram down I find inappropriate when it involves children.  While I feel some sort of consolidation is needed, this is way off what I would have done.  First, consolidate the non classroom functions and allow parents, school boards and  professional educators to determine what is the best for the kids.

Peter Mills (R)

It would be a shame to repeal the law.  Most of the consolidations have produced good results with tangible savings.  But more importantly, the services available from a consolidated district for things like advanced placement, special ed, contract negotiation, transportation services, nutrition planning for school meals, and the like can be delivered more effectively from a larger district.  That means a higher quality education for the students.  It means preserving certain programs, like advanced placement, that might otherwise disappear from a smaller district.

It is primarily because of quality enhancements that I support preserving the consolidation law.  The savings are real enough but secondary.

Now, would I vote to replace the penalties with strong inducements?  You bet I would.  I will not be surprised if the legislature finally follows my advice later next spring after the referendum is defeated.

Elizabeth Mitchell (D)

There is no question that we need to cut the cost of administration in school districts and put more money into the classroom. However, the implementation of school consolidation has created too many problems in too many places. As a result of the law, many towns have seen their property taxes increase and districts created that make little sense for students and their families. I voted to repeal the consolidation law so we can work through the legislative process to craft a system that rewards streamlining administration and cost savings but in a workable manner. We all know that the status quo is not acceptable and we need to focus on the quality of our education. Should the voters repeal the current consolidation law, the legislature should allow districts that consolidated continue in their new form.  All districts should be given appropriate incentives to share resources and to focus resources on classrooms and good student outcomes.

Les Otten (R)

I plan to vote “No” on Question #3.

I don’t want to stand in the way of any efforts to make government more efficient and I think this effort should be allowed to continue.

Bruce Poliquin (R)

School consolidation is a very painful issue for many people, particularly for our rural communities. With education being nearly half the state budget, we need to look closely at how those resources are being managed.  I think we need to reallocate some of those assets to make sure we are spending what we need in the classroom rather than on our very expensive administrative costs.  Consolidation offers us a way to do that.  I wouldn’t have necessarily supported the way the current administration chose to do it, but I support the principle.  We must be dead serious about addressing our administrative overhead.

Steve Rowe (D)

I do not support the repeal of the schools consolidation law.  I believe that we must continue to look for efficiencies in consolidation – not only with respect to schools but in other areas as well.  Yes, there are ways to improve the existing law.  For example, I believe that we must make adjustments in the actual implementation process.  Consolidation of some school districts is a good idea; however, the process should be more inclusive.  Stakeholders should be brought in earlier.  Coalitions should be established.  Cost-sharing arrangements must be equitable.    If the law is repealed, the laws governing the structure and governance of public schools would return to where they were prior to the consolidation law as amended by non-consolidation laws.  However, it is reasonable to assume that the Legislature would amend the laws to allow existing Regional School Units to continue to operate.

Rosa Scarcelli (D)

I will vote NO on Question 3. However, I do believe the current school consolidation law needs improvements. I find it ironic that some of the legislative leaders who once championed the consolidation law are now urging its repeal, which could cost the state close to $40 million. One of the worst aspects of the bill is that it penalizes towns and cities that don’t consolidate. This is the wrong approach. We should provide incentives for communities to consolidate and reward those communities that achieve substantial savings. Consolidation must continue, particularly at the administrative level. It’s unclear what will happen to the school districts that have already consolidated if the law is repealed. Many districts are finding that consolidation is working, and repealing the law could force them to return to the previous system at great expense.

Lynne Williams (G)

Maine Green Independent Party candidate for Governor Lynne Williams released her second video ad October 10, urging voters to vote yes on proposition three to repeal the school consolidation law previously enacted by the Maine Legislature.

The spot, which may be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/lynnewilliams2010, is the second in a series Williams plans to release in coming weeks outlining her positions on the upcoming November referendum. The first ad, released last week, urges voters not to repeal Maine’s landmark marriage equality law.

Williams, a Bar Harbor attorney, said she opposes the school consolidation bill because it was passed “under dark of night and with no public input.”

Williams says the law was “ill-considered,” and objects to it because it lessens local control of schools and tries to lump schools together into a “one size fits all” situation.

Standing by a school bus, Williams says “There’s nothing wrong with small schools, or with small school buses,” as the camera pans away to reveal that the bus is a much smaller version than the standard bus people are used to seeing on Maine highways.

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One Response

  1. […] weeks ago, and again just this past Friday in response to a question from blogger Derek Viger of The Maine View.  Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, we need to sit down and figure out the answers to […]

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