Supporting Maine schools key to kids’ success, progress for Maine
The leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter and colder, and it is “back to school” season. Although it is sad to leave summer behind, there is a sense of optimism in the air when students, parents, and teachers begin a new school year. As the homework piles up, that optimism may decline, but it is a good time to reflect on the state of education in Maine, and think about our own stack of homework – our responsibility to support Maine’s public schools.
Everyone deserves the chance to succeed. No matter who you are or where you were born, opportunity should knock on every door.
A good education and a positive experience at school helps kids get the right start in life so that they can grow into successful adults and give back to their communities someday. That’s why supporting our public schools is the best investment we can make for our children – and for our state’s future.
This session, we fought hard to increase funding to schools to ensure they have the resources they need to improve. Despite the governor’s attempt to slash school funding, we were able to restore cuts to education and provide an additional $35 million for our schools, bringing us closer to our goal of funding education at 55 percent.
In addition, the Legislature passed several good bills to help students and teachers do their best. One in five young children go hungry and do not get the food they need, so we passed a measure to expand access to summer food programs to help ensure that kids get the nutrition they need all year long. If students are malnourished, they can have trouble learning. No child in Maine should have to feel the pang of hunger.
We passed a bill to strengthen education and job training in the critical fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Jobs in the STEM field are the jobs of the future, and Maine kids should have the skills they need to compete in the changing economy when they go on to higher education programs or enter the workforce.
We also passed a measure to strengthen the teacher evaluation process by ensuring that educators have a seat at the table when developing the teacher evaluation system, because they know what goes on in the classroom every day, and their perspective is invaluable to the process. The bill limits the amount that test scores can be used to evaluate a teacher, because test scores are only a snapshot of a child’s abilities, and do not help us see the full picture of the teaching and learning that is taking place in the classroom. Unfortunately, this bill was vetoed by the governor, but we will fight for it again, because teachers are the most important part of a strong education, and they must have the tools they need to help our kids succeed.
As a new grandfather, I have been reminded of how fast time flies, and how quickly our children grow. Not too long from now, they will be entering the workforce, and starting families of their own. It is our responsibility as legislators, parents, school administrators, and community members to ensure that Maine’s public schools are strong and guarantee that our kids are given a fair chance to climb the ladder of success.