AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday criticized the Maine Education Association for its endorsement of the same-sex marriage question on the November ballot.
LePage said in a press release that the organization’s support for the referendum was an example of the “political game this union plays.”
The 150-year-old organization represents more than 24,000 active and retired teachers.
Its endorsement of the referendum question was announced Thursday by Mainers United for Marriage, the organization campaigning for its passage.
In a letter to MEA President Chris Galgay dated May 24, LePage “reiterated his challenge to the MEA to partner with the State to improve professional development opportunities,” according to the press release.
“In Maine, we are blessed with many great teachers. 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 letter. “I believe that by re-focusing your union’s energy on professional development, students will dramatically benefit.”
Efforts to reach Galgay and other leaders in MEA were unsuccessful as of 6 p.m. Friday.
David Farmer, spokesman for the Mainers United for Marriage, said Friday that MEA was one of more than 50 organizations that have endorsed the effort to allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine. Given the organization’s previous support on the issue, MEA’s stance on the referendum was not surprising, he said.
“It is in their organization’s ethos to support issues of fundamental fairness,” he said.
Farmer said the campaign “is actively reaching out to the labor community seeking support” for the referendum.
In his press release, the governor said that he has not yet received a response to a similar challenge he issued last year.
“The union is failing its members if it’s not offering opportunities for them to improve their craft,” LePage said Friday. “We must always put our students first and the union has clearly failed miserably to acknowledge this.”
He promised to budget state funds to match dollar for dollar increases in professional development funds offered to teachers by the MEA.
“We agree with the governor but recognize what a great challenge it is to be in education,” Carroll Conley, head of the Christian Civic League of Maine and the Protect Marriage Maine political action committee, said Friday. “We think it would be better if the MEA would focus on academics rather than social engineering.”
Conley was the principal of Bangor Christian Schools in Bangor from 1992 to 2000.
To view the letter LePage sent to Galgay, visit http://bdn.to/meagov.