June 25, 2018
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LePage’s work in Waterville a bad omen

By Joyce Blakney, Special to the BDN

“Most importantly, during this entire time in Waterville, I did not cut a single service,” says Paul LePage, the Republican candidate for governor.

I have heard it in his commercials. I have read it on his website. Paul LePage claims he cut taxes in Waterville without cutting city services. That’s false, and I must speak up.

How do I know it’s false? Because I teach in the Waterville schools and have seen services for our students cut again and again during LePage’s tenure as mayor.

I teach without textbooks in certain courses — in others I use a set of dilapidated books from 1997. Why? Each year our textbook budget line is cut. When my students don’t have pencils, paper or binders, I supply them out of my pocket. I even supply the very tissues that they use to blow their noses.

And it’s not just me. Here are some of the things I learned from my co-workers:

The budget for supplies for classrooms was cut in half in all schools. One elementary teacher tells me that a local business bought most of the school’s classroom supplies for the past two years and there are no funds to replace missing math books. Another replied that when the limited budget for copier paper runs out, teachers copy items on the backs of old papers or buy reams of paper themselves.

Since there are not enough books for every student, teachers have to coordinate so that they teach things on different days so children can share the books. Even then, there are not enough books for every student in a classroom.

The only classes with enough books for a classroom full of kids are social studies and science, but these books are dated 1985 and 1989. I’m pretty certain that things have changed in both fields during the past 25 years.

Another elementary school teacher told me she personally bought materials for projects supporting the arts in the curriculum — stationery supplies, newsletter paper, ink cartridges, markers, learning and instructional supplies such as educational games, dice and storage containers.

A junior high teacher sent me a list of everything she has bought for her room: paper, folders, dry-erase markers, tissues, pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, staples, paperclips, rubber bands — you get the picture.

Why do so many teachers personally buy these things for their students rather than doing without? Because they care for those boys and girls and want them to have what is necessary for them to learn.

It’s not just supplies. Positions have been cut. Custodial staff is so limited that teachers tell me they often clean their rooms themselves.

Education technician positions, a necessary human component of the classroom, have been cut. Teaching positions are lost. Other necessary jobs have been left unfilled.

The high school lost its full-time librarian and now shares a librarian with the junior high. This means that the high school will lose its accreditation. Even if the position were reinstated, the accreditation will still be lost if necessary high school renovations are not completed. LePage has publicly stated he does not support the city paying for the renovations because “it would not be prudent.”

LePage has balanced his budget on the backs of Waterville’s public schools and the children they serve. Every year, he has threatened to veto the budget if it is not slashed, forcing the school board to comply in spite of the damage to the students and the schools they attend.

LePage has cut taxes in Waterville but he has done so at the expense of the children who live there and the educators who work there. Shame on him.

Joyce Blakney is a teacher in Waterville.

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