LePage vetoes teacher pay bill, renews criticism of union for backing gay marriage

BDN staff reports
Posted May 29, 2012, at 6:16 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would provide additional pay to public school teachers who receive special national certification.

Such money would be better spent on teacher training, the governor said in his veto message.

“I am not vetoing this bill because I disagree with the benefits of National Board Certification,” LePage wrote. “Rather, I am vetoing it because it is a Band-Aid to a problem — the need for highly qualified teachers — requiring a larger more coordinated statewide solution.

“Moreover, this bill requires teachers to partially fund the program, while simultaneously paying union dues which are squandered on a host of activities not even remotely related to professional development.”

He also used the veto to again criticize the state teachers union, the Maine Education Association, for backing a campaign to legalize same-sex marriage this fall.

“The MEA announced its endorsement recently of the same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot,” LePage said in a press release Tuesday. “This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, sought to encourage teachers to mentor one another by offering salary incentives of up to $3,000 a year by 2014. The higher salaries would come after certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The money was to come from fees collected by the Department of Education to fund teacher certification.

“Rather than fund this new program on the backs of teachers, I propose eliminating teacher certification fees and working with the MEA to refocus its efforts on professional development of teachers, not the pet political projects of union bosses,” LePage wrote in his veto letter, which included a small smiley face next to his signature.

The governor said he’d match, dollar for dollar, any union fee increases that went toward “improving the profession of teaching.” He said essentially the same thing in a letter sent to MEA President Chris Galgay last week when he admonished the union for backing the marriage equality campaign.

“Too often, however, union bosses worry about a wide variety of efforts — political campaigns, lobbying, protecting bad teachers, insurances sales, and providing golf and skiing discounts — which are not related to furthering the education of our children,” LePage said in the May 24 letter. “I believe that by re-focusing your union’s energy on professional development, students will dramatically benefit.”

Rob Walker, executive director of the MEA, said Tuesday it’s the responsibility of the state and school districts to provide teachers with training they need to improve.

“It’s a red herring to sit there and say that a union is responsible for providing staff development, even though we do,” Walker said. “We’re very disappointed that the governor chose to veto a bill that only supports the people who are trying to become more effective in the classroom, and it appears that his disapproval of the Maine Education Association is being taken out on teachers.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/29/politics/lepage-vetoes-teacher-pay-bill-renews-criticism-of-union-for-backing-gay-marriage/ printed on August 23, 2014