Anytime the Maine media rains terms such as “taxes,” “economy,” “business climate” and “jobs,” among others, upon the voters and taxpayers of Maine, Libby Mitchell runs for cover under her education umbrella. The fact, and it is fact, is that Maine is already among the nation’s leaders in education spending.

Maine’s population of approximately 1.5 million residents, like that of neighboring New Hampshire, is among the smallest in the nation, yet Maine’s education spending ranks among the highest, ahead of many much larger states, and in the vicinity of the top 20 to 25 percent. Exact position may change incrementally from year to year; nevertheless, Maine is right up there. Do not take my word; go online, visit the Web and check it out yourself.

Maine’s economy is just about non-existent. Five years ago, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was Maine that had the worst economy in the U.S. During the 2010 primary season, the figure that was popular and which met no argument from any other politician was that Maine had gained just 65 jobs in the past decade.

Yes, the Maine economy is shedding jobs as fast as it is creating them. While the Maine economy may be somewhat better off at this time, it is in no position to foot Libby’s brand of education spending.

Education by itself does not create an economy, an attractive business climate or jobs, but may assist in creating good-paying jobs once the economy and business climate are in place. State spending, taxes and tax formulas are the keys to the economy and eventual jobs and higher per-capita income. A person needs only to look west at New Hampshire, a state of similar population, to see what can happen.

In information just released and in the news over Columbus Day weekend, Maine’s taxes are 13 percent higher than the national average and 16 percent higher than other rural states. Libby tells us that good-paying jobs are the result of education. Maine is among the national leaders in education spending; where are the good-paying jobs?

Libby has most of three decades or more in Augusta and wants more of the status quo that thus far has been ineffective. This is Libby’s legacy! Libby touts a pupil-to-teacher ration of 9 to 1. Do you remember Rosa Scarcelli, one of Libby’s primary competitors? Rosa and Libby had a standoff in a primary debate and Rosa won on this issue. Rosa suggested that a 13-to-1 or even a 15-to-1 ratio might be acceptable and entered the fact that there has never been a study to support Libby’s position.

Libby could not respond. With an education budget that is already over the top for a state of Maine’s size, who is going to pay for more education, those who are already struggling due to low wages, unemployment and problems paying for housing?

Local control starts right here in Waldo County with the voters and taxpayers. Libby Mitchell cannot guarantee it and it is doubtful that Paul LePage would be successful at taking it away. Our vote is our guarantee. Sue Williams, the spokeswoman in much of the advertising we see bearing an address of 35 Community Drive, Augusta, certainly can’t guarantee our local control, and much of that ad is false and misleading at best.

Most Maine school districts are losing students through a natural process called attrition. Maine’s economy is not attracting many new young residents and the existing population is getting older. The birth rate is down in Maine, while in New Hampshire, the opposite is happening.

Paul LePage is not governor, yet RSU 20 is already discussing the possibility of closing a school. A doubling of classroom size is not about to happen. Just more scare tactics, which we should all be used to at election time. The problem for all of us is learning to judge what is right and wrong, so that we can cast a proper vote.

I mentioned New Hampshire because itst economy is attracting young people to the state, the birth rate is rising sufficiently that for the first time in 200 years, New Hampshire’s population will be larger than Maine’s. Classroom size is increasing, but after the education there will be more residents to share the tax burden.

My favorite education story emanates from New Hampshire. In Derry, there is a regional high school, Pinkerton Academy. Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, Pinkerton Academy was serving up to six towns, several of which were growing at a rate of up to 1,000 to 1,500 residents per year, the tax-oppressed from Massachusetts looking for affordable housing.

Derry had to rebuild its school system to keep up with the crowd and a new high school probably would have broken the bank. Pinkerton Academy was able to expand in a controlled manner to keep up with student growth by building smaller buildings in a campus style. During the early 1980s, Pinkerton was cited by the U.S. military for providing one of the best educations in the country.

A year or so thereafter, Pinkerton was cited by the New Hampshire Department of Education for having the lowest cost per pupil of any high school in that state. Pinkerton Academy is the school that educated Alan Shepard, an astronaut, and Matthew Thornton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and those buildings are still in use.

One thing you will not find at Pinkerton Academy is an expensive grand façade of the type that you would see at most high schools constructed in recent years. Mr. Nick Ithomitis was the principal or headmaster at Pinkerton through most of the 1980s and 1990s until he was hired to the same position at Camden Hills Regional High School in the early 2000s. At that time, according to the Camden Herald, he was considered head and shoulders above all other applicants.

Two years thereafter, Camden Hills hired an assistant principal, also from Pinkerton. My question is; serving the fastest-growing population around and struggling to keep up with it, what do you think the classroom size at Pinkerton Academy was in those days? It is highly unlikely that it was 9 to 1 or 13 to 1 or 15 to 1. I’m certain Mr. Ithomitis could tell you. At any rate, education does not have to break the back of the taxpayers in order to get the job done.

As we go to the polls in November, the economy, business climate, jobs, state spending and taxes are the issues at hand, not education. There is a job to be completed that was started in June with the defeat of LD 1945, otherwise known as Question 1. While I decry the antics of the past weeks, the need in Maine is for a governor who can lead this state and establish an agenda for the future, such as Meldrim Thompson did in New Hampshire during the 1970s when New Hampshire was the fastest-growing (percentage-wise) state in U.S.

I believe Paul LePage is that person and has the proven business experience to get the job done. Perhaps Libby Mitchell’s children have been able to return to Maine; most of our children are still not able to make it in Maine!

Richard Lenfest is a resident of Belmont, and the Belmont town correspondent for the Journal.