As the first student appointed by the Governor on the Maine State Board of Education I fought for:
* Increased civic education curriculum (Passed in the Legislature in 2011)
* Drug prevention programs in schools
* Universal grading system statewide
* Shoring up the educational disparity between northern and southern Maine
Thornton Academy Funding
As an alumnus of Thornton Academy, I feel a great sense of pride for my community and Saco's education system.
We need to ensure the State continues to support funding public-private partnerships.
I would like to hold monthly update meetings either on location or through 21st century tools with administrators, teachers, and even students to ensure that TA has the tools and resources they need from our government.
Comments regarding RSU:
The state has failed to fund public education to the 55 percent rate that Maine people decided at the polls. This has overburdened local communities like ours in having to find ways of making up for that shortfall including raising taxes significantly. Meanwhile, the RSU has failed to regionalize[sic] our local school system to save money and increase educational opportunity like it was intended. I will push for legislation mandating that the legislature listen to Maine people in funding education to the 55 percent level. This will help reduce the need for local communities to resort to damaging budget reductions and higher taxes. We can't have ballooning taxes, but we must also ensure a high quality education for each generation after us.
Paying for Post Secondary Education
I don't have to tell you twice, that the increasing cost of post-secondary education is through the roof. It causes many young people to postpone their college careers or causes families to take out massive loans that students will then in turn end up with mounds of debt starting their lives in the real world.
In order to have a thriving economy, we need a work force that is properly trained and educated. Investing in our education system means investing in our community, state, and nation's future. We must continue to make Community College a viable option for students that wish to pursue a degree.
Maine Ranks Second For Student Debt (Article from WMTW)
According to democratic Rep. Mike Michaud says the $29,983 average debt in Maine is topped only by New Hampshire, at $31,048. Vermont graduates are also among those with the biggest average debt loads, at $28,391.
The figures are from a report called Student Debt and the Class of 2010, an initiative of the independent, nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success.
Technology in the Classroom
Technology has been woven into the very fabric of our society. As a result, we have to ensure our students are prepared for the changes of the real world when they graduate. Having laptops in Middle and High Schools can be a good resource for teachers to gain students shorter and shorter attention spans and teach in an interactive way.
One thing we still don't have, however, is a TV in every classroom. While it might not seem necessary, having an additional ability to teach through multiple visual mediums helps students that learn in a variety of ways. If we implement the Channel One Program in our school system, every classroom would receive a television free of charge. The only catch is that students would have to watch their 12-minute nationally broadcast newscast during homeroom each morning. This is a win-win. On one end teachers get another tool in the classroom and on the other end students get informed of what is happening in the world around them.
Keeping students from drinking or using illegal substances is vital to ensuring a successful educational experience.
In my conversation with the York County Sheriff, there are no funds available to provide some form of drug prevention training in the school system through the Sheriff's Office. While this is a sad notion, we don't need to throw money at this problem.
What we need is to use the resources we already have like tapping into the health teachers and resource officer s that are already in high schools across the state to help teach students in a fun and productive way that drugs are not the answer.
The LePage Administration signed LD 1211, "An Act To Require That a Student Satisfactorily Complete a Course in Civics and Government to Receive a High School Diploma." Representative Mary Nelson of Falmouth sponsored this piece of legislation that is now law. While critics cite problems with such an educational mandate, this is something that should have been a no brainer from day one.
To date myself, I graduated high school at Thornton Academy in 2009 without any civics requirement. I did however take a political science course due to my high level of interest in the subject as a senior. It was not mandatory for students to take and as a result only about 40 students out of a class of approx. 350 took the class. This meant 300 plus young people were going out into the real world without a solid foundation in how a bill is passed and more importantly how politics can affect every single aspect of our lives. These 300 plus graduating seniors would go on to represent the majority of Americans that feel a similar disinterest and disconnect in our political system and with government functions.
When young people turn the magic number of 18 to become legal voting citizens, there isn't a manual of life. How is one supposed to automatically know about our government and political process not to mention how to register to vote?
I knew at this point that civics education needed to be a top priority for the sanctity of a surviving democracy. It wasn't about democrats or republicans; it was about doing what is right for the future generation; my generation.
It just so happened I had been appointed to serve on the State Board of Education by then Governor John Baldacci. Here was the opening; the opportunity to let the flow of information trickle to the people with the power to make a difference. But alas the political beings at work, fought to keep the status quo over creating the kind of positive change students needed. Instead of incorporating my plea for mandatory civics education into the new curriculum set to go into place by 2014, a common sense oriented idea fell on deaf ears.
The State Board of Education should be the entity spearheading ideas like this to the Commissioner of Education and subsequently the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee of the Legislature. While it's not explicitly spelled out in the statute, what little to no power the State Board of Education has should be wielded with more might or at least should take a more active role in educational reforms. Simply listening, without a political filter, to what is happening with students in the classroom could be a start.
No matter how this came to be, the key is now that civics education is mandated how will it be implemented as critics like to so profusely proclaim? The fear is that the kind of civics taught throughout schools in Maine will be guided with a heavy hand of political ideology. Given the controversial figure Gov. LePage has become, good or bad, during his tenure, this fear is recognizable. It is reminiscent of the constant debate over national textbook content control by way of Texas' checkbook.
Local districts should ultimately decide how to best implement civics education at their level with the guidance of the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education. An unbiased, independent source should verify that the content being developed is in fact focused on the full political spectrum and not just through a narrow prism of indoctrination.