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Thursday, March 29, 2012: Education reform, Angus King and budget cuts

Slower change, please

There is no question that standards-based education will set aside traditional methods of instruction used to educate students since the late 1800s. Neither is there any question that a change is desperately needed. The disturbing question remains: Is standard-based education the best model in existence to replace the century-plus old industrial model?

I am anxious as I watch this change approach us like a tsunami that seemingly cannot be stopped. My anxiety is increased when I read such articles as “Teacher: One (maddening) day working with the Common Core” in the Washington Post.

Simply because this new system will replace an old worn-out system is not sufficient reason that it should be embraced. Are there better models out there which are being ignored, such those as in Finland or Singapore? Are we racing headlong into this drastic change, thus possibly putting our students at risk, in a disguised attempt to acquire federal money (i.e., the Race to the Top)?

It is past time that we apply a little braking, not enough to stop, but enough to slow a bit and proceed cautiously. There are many wrinkles in the common cores; wrinkles big enough to wreck an already damaged system.

Guy Bourrie


Angus and rural Maine

A recent letter to the editor mischaracterized Angus King’s record while governor on rural issues.

The first complaint involved a decision made about linking Aroostook’s electrical system to the rest of Maine in 1991 — four years before Angus became governor. Hard to blame him for that one. In fact, Angus supported and signed a bill to establish just such a link.

Angus oversaw to the reconstruction of Route 11 to Fort Kent and Route 9 to Calais, the two largest road reconstruction projects in Maine history. Ask anyone who lives along either road what it meant to Aroostook and Washington counties.

He had a direct role in persuading Harrison McCain to invest $100 million in the potato processing plant in Easton, a project still paying dividends to growers and employees. He made countless trips to both counties and worked with small businesses on marketing, infrastructure and permitting. I know because I was involved in several of those businesses.

In Washington County, Angus pushed through the completion of the Eastport port facilities, negotiated with New Brunswick on the locally preferred location of the Calais bridge and found funding for the first full-time economic development position in Washington County.

Aroostook’s unemployment rate when Angus was elected was a terrible 11 percent. By 2000, we had dropped to 3.9 percent. Obviously, this wasn’t all Angus’ doing, but his policies and hard work on our behalf sure helped.

In my opinion, no other governor in my lifetime has done as much for rural Maine.

Greg Cyr

Fort Kent

Reordered priorities

Day after day we hear updates related to the proposed state budget cuts. I keep asking myself why is it necessary, in a society that has such abundance, that people who are less fortunate and their advocates have to literally beg for the basic necessities?

How does it make any sense to anyone that an essential safety net like General Assistance would be on the chopping block? How can we entertain the idea of placing single parents and children in jeopardy of homelessness by withdrawing the meager aid that TANF benefits provide? Should homeless people, impoverished women and vulnerable children pay the price of our short-sighted fiscal priorities? Have we become so numbed to the plight of others, so self-centered that the concept of the common good has completely disappeared from public discourse?

It is truly a matter of values. The drastic and many would say immoral cuts being proposed will have far-reaching consequences. If you care about people, these cuts will increase suffering. If you care about dollars, these cuts will lead to even greater costs. Care will be shifted to more expensive services.

As a person of faith, I pray we will reorder our priorities, seek a broader redistribution of wealth and look for cost savings and increased revenues in other areas. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Mary Ellen Quinn


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