Candidate Cutler proposes adding more magnet schools

Posted Aug. 30, 2010, at 10:02 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler outlined a proposed education reform package on Monday that includes lengthening the school year and allowing public charter schools in Maine.

Cutler, who is one of five candidates for governor on the November ballot, said Maine needs to “throw open the windows and welcome a fresh wind of innovation and reform” into its education programs.

Cutler said he would support:

• Allowing public charter schools and creating additional magnet schools focused on agriculture, foreign languages, marine science and the creative arts. The publicly funded Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone is the state’s only current magnet school.

• Lengthen Maine’s school year as well as the hours in the school day. Cutler spokesman Ted O’Meara said the candidate would support expanding from the current 175 days to 180 or 185 days.

• Linking teacher pay to student performance rather than teacher seniority.

• Merge the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System in order to increase collaboration, reduce redundant programs and centralize administration under one board and chief executive.

Cutler also pledged that, if he is elected, the state would cut in half the number of children who fail reading proficiency tests administered at the end of third grade. As part of that initiative, Cutler called for developmental screening for all preschool children and additional services to those who need them.

The Cape Elizabeth resident also appeared to be targeting teachers unions both in terms of their support for tenure-based salary and their influence on academics.

“It’s time to put taxpayers, parents and teachers back in charge of education,” Cutler said in a statement. “It’s time to make what’s right for kids — and not the union contract — the standard by which we judge what we do in our schools.”

A Bangor native, Cutler served in the administration of President Jimmy Carter and worked for the late Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie. While working in Washington, D.C., he was a founding partner in a law firm that, in 2000, merged with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, one of the world’s largest law and lobbying firms.

Cutler’s opponents on the November ballot are: Republican Paul LePage of Waterville, Democrat Libby Mitchell of Vassalboro, Independent Shawn Moody of Gorham and Independent Kevin Scott of Andover.

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