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Candidates for governor weigh in on negotiating educational policy
Two candidates for governor – incumbent Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler – unequivocally believe adoption of educational policy should remain in the hands of local school boards, while Democrat Michael Michaud says he is open to making some policy decisions a matter of collective bargaining.
All three candidates met individually with a coalition of directors from Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association to address the policy question. The meetings were held in June and July.
Policy determines things like length of the school day and year, course offerings, class size, what positions will be added or eliminated and how students will be supervised. In short, policy generally impacts students and parents, as well as teachers
Long-standing labor law and subsequent court decisions say policy is so important that it must be decided in an open meeting by officials accountable to the voters and that means the locally elected school board.
Policy has become a priority focus for MSBA and MSSA since the Maine Education Association made it clear, once again, it would like to try and pass legislation that makes policy negotiable. The teachers union adopted a resolution at its May Representative Assembly saying: “The MEA promotes discussion with legislators and encourages legislation that would allow educators to bargain educational policy.”
The MEA also reported in April that Congressman Michaud supports bargaining educational policy issues, including curriculum. The Michaud campaign later said some misplaced punctuation caused readers to misconstrue their candidate’s position on policy.
In an interview on July 2, Michaud said he does not believe curriculum should be negotiated, but other areas should be on the table.
“I do think (teacher) prep time and planning – that probably should be negotiated,” Michaud said, adding he would listen to all sides in the debate before making a decision.
Michaud said he would not support negotiating policy simply because the MEA wants it.
“I have been endorsed by the MEA, but I don’t always agree with people who endorse me,” he said.
Independent candidate, Cutler, described as “crazy the very notion that educational policy ought to be subject to collective bargaining.”
Teachers should have a voice in the discussion, he said, but “educational policy should remain with local school boards.”
Gov. LePage, when asked if policy should be negotiable said: “Straight out no.”
He said teachers should have a voice, but the decision on policy should remain with the elected leaders in the district.