On Oct. 29, the Bangor Daily News published an article titled “Study: Consolidation partners report reluctance, pessimism.” The article was based on information accumulated by the Center for Research and Evaluation in the College of Education at the University of Maine. The center interviewed members of five proposed regional school units earlier this year.
Rich Hewitt began the article by writing that “communities are doing what they have to do in order to comply with the state’s consolidation law, but are doing so reluctantly under compulsion and with little optimism about the final outcome.” I believe the statement by Hewitt is accurate and depicts what has transpired in most regional planning committees.
In the same article, Hewitt reports on a conversation he had with David Connerty-Marin, director of communications for the Department of Education. Connerty-Marin is quoted as saying that, “We’ve seen a mood shift in recent weeks. The plans are coming in, and the people are excited about the educational opportunities it’s creating.”
I believe that the only “mood shift” taking place is the “wait and see” attitude that Maine people have had for a year about school consolidation to an attitude of opposition to school consolidation, now that public hearings have been held on the plans. The discussion about consolidation by Maine people does not deal with “educational opportunities,” as Connerty-Marin suggests, increased costs at the local level as well the penalties that will be imposed if communities do not vote for consolidation. There are no net savings to consolidation, and local taxes will increase if consolidation takes place.
The Department of Education has painted a rosy picture about school consolidation and the cost savings it will bring about to the state and local taxpayers for more than one year despite the fact the most people now acknowledge that there will be no cost savings to school consolidation. I can accept the Department of Education being the cheerleader for school consolidation, but I think that the disinformation about school consolidation, which Maine people have heard for over a year, is disgraceful. It reminds me of a military intelligence disinformation campaign that is meant to give the enemy false information or distortion of reality. Maine people are not the enemy, and we deserve the truth from our state officials. The kind word for disinformation in our culture is “spin.” The Department of Education has become the master of spin with regard to school consolidation.
I hope that the Department of Education will cease and desist when it comes to “spinning” information about school consolidation.
Skip Greenlaw is chair of the Maine Coalition to Save Our Schools, which has filed a petition with 61,124 signatures to repeal the school consolidation law. He lives in Stonington and is a member of the Deer Isle-Stonington School Committee.