The republican Governor Paul LePage was reelected in Maine in November of 2014. His legislative activity over the last four years suggests that he is primarily interested in supporting university programs aimed at skills training rather than those founded in the liberal arts, as described by the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Essentially, he seems unable or unwilling to see the link between the liberal arts and job training, perpetuating a false dichotomy that has the potential to harm Higher Education in Maine.His legislative decisions are revealing.
LD 468: Encouraging the banning of smoking on university campuses. In his veto message, LePage argues that Universities can make their own decisions about tobacco use. Of course, LePage’s respect for educational autonomy does not extend very far. For example, in his veto message of LD 1747, which sought to amend the rules to the Maine Department of Education’s “Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth System,” LePage claimed that “the altered rules leave the issue of how teachers will be evaluated to a stakeholder group in each district, two-thirds of which must be teachers. This means that teachers will control the process that determines how they should be evaluated, and this process will vary from district to district.” It seems self-evident that professionals in a field should be the ones to evaluate those practicing in that field. In this same message, he also asserts that “what is ludicrous is a teacher arguing that a test is not a good way to judge someone.” The troubling disconnect between the Governor’s ideas about education and current research regarding it is discouraging and affects primary, secondary, and postsecondary education in the state.
LD 670: Requesting the establishment of a committee to study the use of Career Interest and Aptitude Tests in Higher Education. In his message to the congress regarding his veto of LD 670, LePage made the following claim, “Asking the leaders of public education in our state to study [the effectiveness of using aptitude tests in higher education] when there is no appetite to pass good legislation is the definition of wasted effort” (18 June 2013). The Governor’s assumption that colleges and universities should use these tests without clearer information about their effectiveness or desirability is peculiar given his concerns about teacher evaluation and implicit assumptions about the aim of an education.
While apposing legislation similar to those listed above, he supports the following legislative efforts:
LD 963: Act to expand access to early postsecondary education: In his veto message, he noted that he would resubmit this bill for further funding considerations.
LD 1123: Act to achieve economic growth by enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and to meet workforce needs (overridden): In his veto message, LePage praised this bill, but complained about a lack of funding. The congress overrode his veto.
At this point, the Maine legislature and executive branches efforts to promote effective practices in higher education seems vaguely focused and largely politicized.