Governor's weekly radio address

'It all begins with education'

By Gov. Paul LePage | Feb 18, 2012

The following is text from the governor's Feb. 18, 2012, radio address. To listen, click the MP3 link below.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness encompasses what the “American Dream” is all about.

And it was our founding fathers that blazed the trail toward this dream. But what does this well-known adage truly mean today?

Hello. This is your Governor, Paul LePage.

All Mainers want what’s best for their families and to be afforded the opportunity to prosper. Parents want their children to succeed in life and when we tell them, the sky’s the limit we hope they reach for the stars. But no matter how many metaphors we share with our children we must be able to teach them how to achieve the impossible.

It all begins with education.

This month, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen and I shared a comprehensive plan that pledges to put our students first. We have introduced a series of bills that advance the work of designing an education system around student needs.

The legislation aims to provide students and families more power to choose the school setting that works best for each student. The proposals also take steps to ensure all students are taught by effective teachers and provide local school districts an incentive to save money by collaborating with other districts to provide essential services.

One of our proposals, garnering much support, is the effort to enhance career and technical education. By expanding education in this area we are focusing on opening up the possibilities to all the jobs available in today’s world. For far too long, technical schools have been stigmatized as a place for students with no future when in fact these schools are some of the most valuable assets to a students’ success.

Today’s job market is demanding more attention from our career and technical education. We are being told by job creators that the skills these schools teach are the tools needed to land a good paying job. What we want to ensure is that credits from these schools are recognized by every high school and the Maine Community College System.

It’s not only about what skills are taught, but it’s about who is teaching our kids too. Teachers are significant role models to our youngest generation and new groundbreaking research from Harvard and Columbia suggests student achievement is highly predictive of the impact the teacher will have on a student’s direction in life.

The study also found that students who had teachers that were identified as effective were more likely to attend college and earn higher salaries. These teachers were clearly linked to better life outcomes and strong success in the student’s future educational and career endeavors.

I am a believer that we have outstanding teachers in our state, but I also believe we can do a better job providing training and on-going support to our educators. Leaders and policy makers around the country are considering the importance of meaningful teacher evaluations and Commissioner Bowen is committed to having an open discussion as to what that means for Maine.

Teachers will not lose their voice at the table. Instead, they will be encouraged to help us through the process of implementing meaningful change that will benefit our students.

The power of choice is also an important factor to ensure successful outcomes from students.

Parents and students should be afforded the opportunity to learn without having the barriers of an address telling them where they can and can’t get an education. That is why we have presented a bill that will allow for school choice which is an essential part of providing multiple options for our kids.

Consistent with the expansion of school choice options, we are giving families the ability to choose the best fit for their children’s educational needs by removing one more obstacle. We propose to open public funding to all schools, including charter and religious schools, allowing families more choice.

We ask our children to dare to dream, but sometimes, we as, adults don’t dare to take the approach that offers our kids the most opportunities. It’s time we ask ourselves if we are doing absolutely everything we can to encourage better outcomes.

After all, pursuing the “American Dream” should be every student’s destination.

Thank you for listening. Ann and I hope you have a wonderful weekend."

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