Exclusively for MSSA and MSBA members, MSMA now provides access to current collective bargaining agreements for teachers, support staff and administrators, searchable by school unit, county, or keywords.» Access the Contract Database
All four candidates for governor – Shawn Moody, Janet Mills, Terry Hayes and Alan Caron — came to the MSMA offices on Sept. 5 to respond to questions regarding public education policy and funding.
What follows is a synopsis of their comments.
Listen to what the candidates had to say by clicking the links below:
Most important issue facing public education?
Moody: Supports a comprehensive performance-based pay system for teachers. Across-the-board pay breeds mediocrity. Need to understand why teacher morale is low and address issues.
Mills: There’s a teacher shortage. Many are going to retire and too many earning teacher degrees here are leaving the state.
Hayes: Core mission of public education has been watered down because too many things being asked of schools that have nothing to do with teaching and learning, including social needs that have to be met like adequate food and clothing.
Caron: The way the world is changing, both in terms of the economy and family structure. We lack a vision or plan for the economy.
What works well in Maine’s public education system?
Moody: Community College and University System can finally transfer credits between and among each other.
Mills: Decent high school graduation rate, but need to increase higher education completion rate. Early education opportunities, including pre-kindergarten, have increased.
Hayes: Teachers work well.
Caron: The system works well, but there’s too much political interference. Need to settle on a direction and stick with it for 10 years.
Problems with public education?
Moody: Lack of consistent leadership in the Department of Education; too many commissioners and interim commissioners in recent years. We need a statewide teachers’ contract. We need a vision i.e. educational plan.
Mills: Schools dealing with social and economic problems and families affected by opioid crisis, with parents not engaged. Lack of consistent leadership at the top of Department of Education and still a lot of disparities in school funding.
Hayes: There’s a real disconnect between what’s happening at the policy level and what’s happening in the classroom. Teachers don’t feel very well supported.
Caron: Reversing direction too quickly. Proficiency-based diploma law an example.
Balancing public education funding against property tax concerns?
Moody: Change the EPS funding formula; it’s not working for some communities. Get rid of duplication of administration so more money can be put in the classroom. Share administrative functions with cities and towns.
Mills: Easy to say raise more general fund money, but need to deal with cost drivers in areas like special education. Circuit-breaker programs help, but there’s no magic wand.
Hayes: Prioritize the list of where education money goes and put teachers at the top. Look at social service needs of students and don’t charge them against the school budget. Expanding support for public education beyond the property tax would help, but previous tax expansions failed due to politics. Reconsider changing the 55 percent goal because it has never been met.
Caron: You’re going to need more money from the state and revenue sources other than just the property tax. Expectation on education higher than ever and the money isn’t. Need to grow economy to produce more revenue.
Support for minimum teacher salary of $40,000?
Moody: Yes. Pay for it by cutting administrative costs.
Mills: Yes. It’s been 12 years since it was raised to $30,000.
Hayes: Yes, but do it in increments over two or four years. Made easier if we adopt a statewide teacher contract.
Caron: Don’t know if $40,000 is the number, but generally supportive of moving in that direction, as long as it’s an average.
How can we make college more affordable?
Moody: Community College most affordable way to start. Look at increasing state funding for higher education.
Mills: Paid internships and jobs help; public-private partnerships; debt/loan forgiveness. Considering income-tax waiver for those who attend college here and stay to work for five years, or some specified number.
Hayes: Do remediation where it is least expensive i.e. not at college level. Encourage completion in four years. Provide upfront projections on how much loans really cost.
Caron: Two years of free higher education for those who agree to stay in Maine for at least 10 years, with loan forgiveness pro-rated over those 10 years.
Mandatory school attendance at age 5 versus 7?
Moody: Doesn’t like the word mandatory but believes children need to be in schools earlier.
Mills: Wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Hayes: Support lowering age to 5.
Caron: Yes in favor of 5 and expanding pre-kindergarten.
Longer school year of 180 instructional days versus 175?
Moody: Need input from local constituents, but on the surface sounds good.
Mills: Can’t commit to lengthening school year; need to consult with tourist industry and others. Support more summer education hours for students.
Hayes: What would we get for those additional days and why is that best investment to support core mission of schools? Statewide teacher contract would support flexibility on school-year length.
Caron: In favor of moving in that direction.
Your vision for Career and Technical Education?
Moody: Need to get rid of stigma around blue collar work and the stigma around vocational education. Change the culture. Maine needs trained workers. Get people from the field back teaching CTE.
Mills: Increase apprenticeships with local employers for all students, not just CTE. Local employers and industries have larger role to play. Transportation to CTE sites is an issue.
Hayes: Private sector has role in internships. Need better messaging around value of CTE. Positive CTE message supported by LePage and needs continued support.
Caron: In favor of introducing more practical elements in education that prepare people for work. All of public education has to be integrated to build capacity needed for the next economy.
Keeping young people in Maine?
Moody: Send the message to young people there are career opportunities in Maine. Use apprenticeships to grow our own workforce with help of businesses.
Mills: Enhance public education system across the state to attract young families. Invest in research and development to support more small business and entrepreneurs. Increase broadband and improve cell service statewide. Young people are looking for connectivity and sense of community.
Hayes: Need to lead with our assets and not our liabilities. State ignored predictions of labor shortage and now thousands of private sector jobs unfilled. Negative message about lack of opportunities needs to change. 35 million people visit here. Turn that from “play here to stay here”. Quality public education plays a role.
Caron: Invest in people who are actually creating jobs in Maine. Build an economy from the bottom up by investing in little guys and entrepreneurs. If you build an exciting, bottom-up economy, young people will stay and others will come.
Moody: It should be a local decision to adopt. Systems that adopt need to be prepared and communicate better.
Mills: Original Learning Result standards are sound and state can’t focus on two or four; need to teach all. As for requiring a proficiency-based diploma, some schools did well with proficiency-based systems and others might with guidance. A diploma should mean something.
Hayes: Backing off proficiency-based diploma law this legislative session was a policy mistake. Change the language and try and move forward. Perhaps using Redefining Ready model will help get proficiency back on track.
Caron: Proficiency-based learning was moving in the right direction. Need to pick a lane and stick with the lane for a while. We have to measure the results of what we’re doing. If not that system, what’s the system?