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May 23, 2011: LePage’s education agenda, food stamps, food pantries

Charter schools are supposed to be about innovation and excellence. Charter schools are supposed to be about choice for parents and students. But do a little research, connect the dots, and it becomes clear that charter schools fit very nicely with LePage’s political agenda.

Allowing charter schools in Maine will open the door to a whole set of initiatives that the majority of Maine people would not necessarily support if they were considering them separately.

Read LePage’s speech at the Homeschoolers of Maine convention in March (available online). LePage supports prayer in schools and the teaching of creationism. He implies public school teachers are selfish. He supports diverting funds from public schools to private schools, religious schools and parents of home-schoolers. He wants to do that without requiring much in the way of accountability.

He thinks reducing the population of students in public schools is a good thing. He states there will be far fewer children identified as needing special services.

Steve Bowen, LePage’s education commissioner, is a big proponent of virtual education.  Allowing charter schools in Maine will open the door to out-of-state corporations to educate our children with our tax dollars. Meanwhile, more Maine teachers will be unemployed. These virtual charter schools will make a profit “teaching” our children, yet — like all charter schools — will be exempt from the standards that normally guide teacher qualifications, curriculum and facilities.

People before politics? That might not be true even in the Blaine House dictionary.

Ray Wirth


Food pantry economics

Here is how the hungry people in Maine get some of their food needs met. Food pantries receive donated food and they buy food from local stores or from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank with charitable donations. Food pantries then give food to low income families, unemployed workers and hungry children.

Good Shepherd Food-Bank has three warehouses at which registered food pantries are allowed to shop.

There are two types of products to purchase from Good Shepherd Food-Bank. One is donated salvage food from Hannaford, Sam’s, Walmart and other stores. The other is purchased product that the Food-Bank buys at wholesale prices with charitable donations then marks up and resells it to the food pantries.

The salvage food costs the food pantries 16 cents a pound. The purchased product can be from 50 cents to well over $1 per pound. The salvage food is scarce now so food pantries are

forced to buy the purchased food to resupply their pantries, thus, a huge expensive

increase to the food pantries which distribute the food to the needy.

The Food-Bank says that it needs to recover its costs. Perhaps the costs that need to be

recovered are more the large increases in payroll rather than food prices. Many food pantries are afraid to speak out for fear of being terminated!

Herschel Hafford


Reform food stamps

I have never gotten into politics before, but I agree there should be some changes in the food stamp program (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

This is what I encountered in the last couple of weeks. When my brother passed away on May 8, my job was to get his affairs in order. My first call was to Social Security to tell them he had passed away. The second call was to the DHHS to cancel his food stamps.

The lady I spoke with was very nice, but I didn’t care for her answer. She told me he had $22 left from last month and his allotment for this month was already added to his card. I asked her to cancel the card. She said, “It is OK for you to spend it, most everybody does!”

I told her I didn’t think so. When I said the word “fraud,” that card was canceled in 30 seconds. End of conversation.

Deb Burdin


Time for people’s veto

In reference to the BDN’s May 19 editorial, “A Costly Win,” I agree that a people’s veto should be reserved for emergencies. LD 1333, ostensibly aimed at lowering the cost of insurance for young and healthy people in the state, would do it at the expense of those middle-aged and older and those with chronic illnesses, as well as those who happen to live in rural areas.

Under this measure, older policy holders can be charged up to five times more for their insurance than those who have the lowest cost policies. Those who live in rural areas or who have had illnesses in the past can also be charged at a higher rate. In addition there will be a monthly tax on every man woman and child who is covered by insurance to insure those who will be forced to lose their current insurance and be put in a high risk pool.

Another feature of the law allows out-of-state insurance companies to market potentially sub-standard policies to Mainers with no ability of the state of Maine to ensure that those policies pay claims. Given that Maine is a largely rural state with one of the oldest populations in the nation, I believe that this creates an emergency situation for thousands of Mainers and is deserving of a people’s veto.

James Barter


Sign a telling metaphor

When Gov. LePage had the “Open For Business” sign installed in Kittery, I wonder if it crossed his mind that many would be upset to learn the sign was made in Alabama, not in Maine. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must declare that I have a small sign shop in Sedgwick and am one of many sign companies in Maine, large and small, that could easily have fabricated this sign, and for the same amount or less than what was paid to the Alabama company.

According to Cynthia Rosen, the tea party activist who headed the project and had many months for coordination and fundraising for it, “We were in a hurry and could not find a local sign company to do this.” So much for “Welcome To Maine — Open For Business.”

What a missed opportunity to have the sign actually represent what the governor claims to believe. What a telling metaphor for the demeanor and direction this administration is taking, where image is far more important than substance. From his removal of uncomfortable labor history images to his vendetta against public radio, from  his base remarks to the NAACP to this blatant misstep of the Alabama-made sign welcoming business to Maine, it’s clear we are at the mercy of a bumbler who sees this state as his private boardgame, moving pieces as he sees fit, and the people be damned.

Jay Peterson


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