Education in Maine – a new blog

Public education in Maine and around the country is changing.  It’s not happening as quickly as some might like nor as some might lead us to believe, but schools, classrooms and teaching itself are certainly different today than a decade ago.

Reforming public education is a complex and difficult subject.  This blog will be just one more in a rapidly expanding list trying to get a handle on it. My union background, though, gives me a unique perspective on the challenges faced by public educators and policy makers.

I was employed by the Maine Education Association for over 14 years as a UniServ Director based in the Caribou office.  As a union representative, I was involved in the collective bargaining side of public education.  I also assisted local Associations and individual members with workplace problems.  What I learned from that experience is the basis for some of my views of education – public, private and otherwise.

Other viewpoints are grounded in my experiences as a grade 5 – 8 teacher; as the wife of a special education now middle school teacher; as an instructor at Husson College and Northern Maine Technical College (when it still was); as a parent of two now-grown children; as the grandparent of 3; and as a law school graduate.

I often read (almost all of my interaction with others who care and/or comment about public education reform is virtual) that politicians (and others) want teachers to be involved in the school improvement process.  Whether or not they truly mean this, I don’t know, but if they do then there’s an important obstacle to be overcome, at least here in Maine.

It is common knowledge that teachers (via their local Association, also known as their union) have a lot of power through their contracts to affect education. That common knowledge is wrong.

What we hear and read about other states’ teachers’ unions and their hundred-page contracts with language regarding class sizes, teacher transfers to better positions, evaluation protocols and other high-priority education reform topics do not apply to Maine. My first priority for this blog is to help explain why the common knowledge is wrong and what might be done to improve the situation.

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10 Comments

Filed under Collective Bargaining

10 responses to “Education in Maine – a new blog

  1. Neal Flynn

    I too feel that contracts can be made stronger–but, unless I am mistaken–and would gladly be corrected, the laws need to change to get rid of that “elephant in the room” called educational policy. Until all aspects of the student/teacher day can be affected by contract, most boards/superintendents will hide behind this catch phrase.

    • Neal –

      You’re right, that’s the elephant in the room. My next blog post will be the beginning of the explanation as to why it’s an issue and what might be done about it.

  2. Gisele

    Whether teachers ever had a lot of say concerning school improvement is debatable. In my 25 years of teaching, teachers have become much less involved in decision-making. Professional development is now limited to in-house (or grant-funded opportunities IF a teacher can locate such PD) and decisions/changes are top down. Rural Maine schools are even more isolated from the decision-makers in Augusta and training for various programs rarely goes beyond a 100 mile radius from the Capitol. More and more often, the role of teacher LEADERS (who would often be the go-getters, or the motivators for improvement within schools) is disappearing and administrators are making decisions that affect not only our work environment, but also student educations, without front-line input. Add to that the constant negative press concerning teacher quality and accountability, the blame game for “inflated budgets”, and teachers begin to feel like they wear a target on their backs. No, we do not feel like we are part of the decision-making process.

    • MaineRight2WorkLegislation

      Gisele has made some great points which deserve attention, but what are the chances that both the MEA and NEA will listen and take positive action for the teachers? Since it seems evident that the union bosses are primarily concerned about themselves, isn’t it time for Maine to become a Right To Work state? Isn’t it time for Forced Unionism to be kicked out of Maine? Our teachers deserve a better union and that will happen if Maine becomes a Right To Work state. Please support this year’s new legislation for this great cause.

  3. MaineRight2WorkLegislation

    edumaine, “The primary goal of any Right to Work law is to safeguard employee rights by ensuring that no worker is forced to join or pay tribute to a union against his or her will. But it’s nice to know that Right to Work states also enjoy faster growth and higher real purchasing power than their forced unionism counterparts.” Source: http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/new-study-shows-right-work-states-enjoy-highe-11152010

    In addition, here’s a great 4-minute interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about related dangers of Forced Unionism: http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/new-jersey-governor-forced-unionism-06102110

    Plus, “Public employee unions contribute mightily to the campaigns of liberal politicians ($91 million in the midterm elections alone) who vote to increase government pay and workers. As more government employees join the unions and pay dues, the union bosses pour ever more money and energy into liberal campaigns. The result is that certain states are now approaching default. Decades of overpromising and fiscal malpractice by state and local officials have created unfunded public employee benefit liabilities of more than $3 trillion.”
    Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703766704576009350303578410.html?KEYWORDS=Pawlenty

    IMHO, Maine will reap great economic rewards if it becomes a Right To Work state… please contact your legislators and ask them to support this cause.

  4. Snow

    Your site seems to be feeding into the unfair attacks on public ed. Are you just a pissed off ex-employee?

    • Snow, I have only posted three entries to date. So far, I have not attacked – fairly or otherwise – public education, the MEA, unions, Maine Taxpayers United, or anyone/anything else. The fact that MTU has used the blog comments feature to make its own political points is their problem, not mine. If you prefer to dismiss me and my thoughts as “just a pissed off (sic) ex-employee“, that’s your choice. If so, there’s no need to keep reading.

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