2013-01-11 / Opinion

LePage should take gentler approach to goals

It's unfortunate that Gov. Paul LePage doesn't seem to realize how his public comments negatively affect the political process.

His first press conference in months was called earlier this week, with the main focus apparently on attacking the Maine School Management Association and the charter school commission.

LePage is understandably angry about the commission's rejection Tuesday of four out of five charter school applications, as implementation of charter schools is high on his list of goals for the state, and it's moving far too slowly for his liking. His concerns certainly have some merit; even the education commissioner said he believes there is a flaw in the process for charter school approval.

LePage's reaction to the rejections, however, was unnecessarily aggressive and will not help matters. He called for the charter commission members to resign, accused the MSMA of intimidating the commission, and criticized the teachers unions and superintendents organizations of resisting change.

What a way to alienate nearly everyone involved in education throughout the entire state.

There's something to be said for having a government official who speaks his or her mind, but that doesn't mean voicing every opinion and disparaging others with whom they must work. Discretion is also an important attribute for a leader, and it's a virtue LePage hasn't displayed.

The commission appears to have worked diligently to review the charter school applications' conformance with state law, and the four applications were rejected on those grounds, according to Jana Lapoint, the commission chairwoman. If the applications don't conform to state law for charter schools, such as the requirement for an independent governing board, they should not be approved ”“ and it's the commission's job to make that call. Some confusion has resulted about the process, however, and we agree with Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen that communication between applicants and the commission needs to be improved.

Making disparaging remarks and calling for resignations is not the way to make those improvements or to advocate for quicker approval of more charter schools for Maine, however.

Those involved in education should not have to feel that the governor is their enemy, and Lapoint even said she felt her commission had been “thrown under the bus.” Instead of publicly airing his anger over the commission's decision, LePage should have spoken with its members directly to better understand their reasoning. Rather than attacking others, we'd like to see him embrace an attitude of cooperation in working to promote charter schools, if that is what he believes is best for Maine students.

The school system is not the only entity that has taken the brunt of LePage's lack of interest in communication and compromise, unfortunately. Democrats in the Statehouse have been repeatedly denied meetings with the governor due to his anger over the Maine Democratic Party's decision to film his public appearances.

Such stonewalling and negative outbursts that disparage other state leaders are simply inappropriate for the governor of a state, and this behavior is getting us nowhere fast.

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Today's editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at kristenm@journaltribune.com.

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