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Tuesday, March 19, 2013: Education, guns and state pensions

Governor’s views puzzling

As the child of career educators and as a career educator myself, I have been puzzled by our governor’s views of education in Maine. For the last several years, he has made many disparaging comments, such as, “We can no longer stand still, we cannot wallow in the status quo. The rest of the country and the world is passing us by.”

I decided to take a few minutes to investigate what quantitative data says about Maine in comparison to other states. The most recent published data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates that Maine’s grade eight scores are statistically significantly above the national average in science, mathematics and reading.

Maine’s most recent results for the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks indicate that Maine is statistically significantly above the national average in English, science, reading and mathematics.

The most recent New England Common Assessment Program results show scores for Maine eighth graders of “proficient” or higher for 76 percent of students in reading, 61 percent of students in mathematics, and 58 percent of students for writing.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Maine’s graduation rate is 10th in the nation with steady increases over the last three years.

Do Maine educators need to be committed to continuous improvement? Yes. Should Maine public schools be held accountable for the academic performance of students? Absolutely.

Is Maine “wallowing in the status quo” or “being left behind”? According to external, independent measures, the answer is no.

Craig King


A Constitution lecture

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., needs to be lectured on the Constitution because she obviously doesn’t get it. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was correct in trying to teach her the meaning of certain amendments.

At least seven of the amendments in the Bill of Rights do not grant, but rather preserve, natural rights. A natural right is one inherently owned by an individual just by being born. The right to bear arms is a natural right, and the Second Amendment clearly preserves it.

Feinstein either doesn’t understand that nuance or simply rejects it. I suspect the latter.

However, let’s take her own argument that her bill “exempts 2,271 weapons” and apply it to the First Amendment.

Would she accept a bill restricting the right to free speech, only exempting printed articles? After all, that would exempt thousands of newspapers.

Surely that’s enough, and Americans don’t need free speech on radio, TV and the Internet, too. Also, print media was all we had in 1787, so how can the Constitution apply to modern media?

She wouldn’t accept that, and we shouldn’t accept any infringements on any of our natural rights.

She went on to ask, and then answer, the question, “Do they need other high-powered weapons that other people use in close combat? I don’t think so.”

Wrong again, senator. The Second Amendment is about defending ourselves against tyranny. We must have weapons similar to what our oppressors might have. “Assault rifle” is how you pronounce “musket” in the 21st century.

Larry Gilbert


A matter of ‘character’

I agree with Gov. Paul LePage when he says paying the state’s debt is a matter of “character” and that “Maine should not have the reputation of not paying its bills.” However, why does that just apply to hospitals and not the unfunded liability the state has owed to the public employees pension for decades?

The workers have paid their share out of every paycheck. The state has underfunded its obligation for decades. Many public workers are ineligible for Social Security. Their pensions are their social security.

In 2011, the 125th Legislature and the governor froze future cost of living adjustments to retirees that had been promised to them at retirement and called it “reform.”

So how about it governor? How about taking half of that hospital money and putting it toward the state pension unfunded liability? After all, it has been owed far longer than the hospital have.

How about showing a little “character”? His words, not mine.

Paul MacLeon


Change of mind

I am very disappointed with Gov. Paul LePage for signing to allow the sale of alcohol starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, March 17.

Trust me, there was a time in my life that I would have thought this was a good idea. But in today’s world with all the crimes and other problems that we face due to drugs and alcohol, I feel that this is only a stepping stone to future problems.

We spend so much money on trying to prevent these problems only to have our governor, who I voted for, do something so stupid.

Is our society so dependent on alcohol to have a good time at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning? This will just lead to changing the law on Sunday sales. Come on, folks, do we really need the revenue that bad?

I have a great idea: Instead of heading off to the pub, lets all start getting ready Sunday mornings for a family breakfast together and then of to church. By the way, I am an Irishman.

Mel Coombs


Filibustered nominees

Caitlin Halligan is an experienced lawyer as general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney. She has argued more than 50 cases before the Supreme Court and is admired by both parties.

Recently, Sen. Susan Collins voted against even allowing Halligan’s nomination to a federal judgeship to get an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

Eight years ago, Collins played a different role in judicial nominations. She was part of a bipartisan “Gang of 14” that ended the George W. Bush-era judicial confirmation battles by devising a deal that the Senate minority would only filibuster nominees under “extraordinary circumstances.”

The deal resulted in the confirmation of right-wing ideologues to lifetime seats on the federal bench. But the “Gang” agreed the president should have leeway to select qualified candidates — like Halligan — for federal judgeships.

Since President Barack Obama took office, that principle has been largely forgotten, even by those, like Collins, who were its strongest champions.

Republicans have filibustered many Obama nominees. Some, when they did get a vote, were confirmed overwhelmingly, leaving one to wonder why the delay occurred in the first place.

But Caitlin Halligan never got a vote. Obama first nominated her in 2010 and had to nominate her four more times after Senate Republicans refused to vote on her nomination. In 2011, Republicans, including Collins, rejected an attempt to end the filibuster of her nomination.

Recently, they rejected it again.

The filibuster of Halligan isn’t about “extraordinary circumstances” but a partisan effort to keep Obama from putting judges on the federal courts.

Patty Weber


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