Opinion: LePage’s hateful plot to undermine public schooling in Maine


It’s no secret that Paul LePage isn’t any fan of public schooling. As governor he referred to as Maine lecturers “a dime a dozen” and instructed an viewers of enterprise individuals that “if you need schooling, go to non-public colleges. If you happen to can’t afford it, robust luck — you’ll be able to go to the general public college.” 

LePage has all the time been upfront about his obsession with privatizing and defunding public colleges. He has referred to as for vouchers that will enable for schooling funding to be diverted to subsidize non-public non secular colleges, house education and for-profit on-line schooling.

As governor, he ignored the 2004 voter-mandated legislation to fund the state’s share of schooling at 55% (Gov. Janet Mills has lastly honored that dedication) and shifted tens of millions of {dollars} in prices onto native college districts. The previous governor additionally applauded a latest Supreme Courtroom determination to strike down Maine’s legislation banning public funding for non secular colleges, stating that it was “time to let the mother and father determine their little one’s future, not instructional bureaucrats.”

The previous governor’s fondness for personal non secular colleges is rooted in his personal expertise attending parochial college in Lewiston, the place he claims the mix of strict self-discipline and corporal punishment made him a greater individual.

“We don’t have that in public colleges. So faith-based colleges have a distinct manner of instructing, and it labored for me,” he as soon as mentioned in a radio interview in 2012. 

“It wasn’t the non secular a part of it that was good; it was the brothers being stern and — take a look at my knuckles — they nonetheless present that they have been hit just a few occasions,” LePage added.

Moderately than addressing the important thing elements that worsen tutorial efficiency — like social and financial circumstances, poverty, unequal college funding and lack of early childhood schooling — LePage and his fellow college privatizers are extra considering placing the entire blame solely on lecturers, college boards and directors for low scholar achievement. As an alternative of enhancing public colleges, LePage seeks to punish them by diverting public schooling cash to non-public colleges. This additional reduces the quantity of funding obtainable for native public colleges and drawbacks low-income college students and kids with disabilities and better wants. As incapacity advocates level out, non-public and spiritual colleges can legally reject college students with particular wants and voucher applications don’t cowl bills like transportation and different companies these college students want.

The racist roots of the varsity alternative motion

Having extra instructional choices seems like a constructive factor, however in actuality research present that this doesn’t enhance scholar achievement total. As an alternative, it additional balkanizes and segregates the scholar physique by permitting extra elite colleges to cherry choose essentially the most privileged and highest attaining college students who’ve extra sources to complement non-public college educations. That is no accident.

As Duke College historian Nancy MacLean has documented, the “college alternative” motion was a direct response to the Supreme Courtroom’s Brown v. Board of Schooling determination that struck down racial segregation in public colleges in 1954. Faculty vouchers have been developed by Southern states to keep away from court-ordered racial integration and permit white mother and father to ship their kids to non-public colleges generally known as “segregation academies” that would discriminate primarily based on the colour of 1’s pores and skin.

Primarily based on in depth archival analysis, MacLean has uncovered how the conservative economist Milton Friedman “taught white supremacists a extra refined…court-proof solution to protect Jim Crow” by offering a justification grounded within the free market ideology. Friedman argued that breaking the “authorities monopoly” over schooling would promote “competitors.”

The college alternative motion was later picked up by well-funded conservative assume tanks and the American Legislative Change Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded invoice mill that creates “mannequin laws” for Republican state legislators. LePage, who was deeply concerned with ALEC as governor, described himself as a fan of Friedman and even as soon as declared July 31 to be “Milton Friedman Day” in Maine, citing the economist’s assist for “college alternative.”

Artistic Commons by way of Allison Shelley, The Verbatim Company for EDUimages

However regardless of a decades-long corporate-funded effort to undermine public schooling, polls constantly present People broadly assist it and overwhelmingly reject college privatization schemes. That’s why college privatizers have been diligently working to erode confidence in public schooling by demonizing lecturers and stoking concern and paranoia in regards to the instructing of LGBTQ content material and “crucial race principle,” or “CRT,” an instructional idea addressing institutional racism that’s typically not taught in Okay-12 colleges.

This newest manufactured ethical panic will be traced to a right-wing propagandist named Christopher Rufo of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who launched the battle towards CRT and supposed “grooming” of scholars by sexually predatory public college lecturers. Rufo makes use of CRT as a catch-all time period to explain any classes that embody research of race relations and racial fairness that make white individuals uncomfortable. In capitalizing on white racial anxiousness in response to the Black Lives Matter motion, Rufo says he purposely makes use of the time period “crucial race principle” as a result of it’s the “good villain” and comes off as “hostile, tutorial, divisive, race-obsessed, toxic, elitist [and] anti-American” to common white middle-class People.

LePage and the bigoted anti-CRT mob

In his marketing campaign appearances, LePage has made it clear that he’ll proceed the battle on public schooling by placing gag guidelines on lecturers and censoring what college students can learn. As he instructed an viewers final 12 months, “I can’t wait to assault the varsity system, as a result of man, this crucial race principle. They’re taking down statues, burning down buildings, killing People.”

Earlier this month LePage echoed calls from the far-right when he mentioned he wished to take away “pornography” from college — a label anti-public college crusaders have used to explain books that comprise LGBTQ subject material — and hinted at pushing laws to assist efforts by mother and father to ban books.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve seen one right here in Hampden and one down south in Bonny Eagle, the place individuals have been threatened to be arrested, thrown out of conferences. That’s inappropriate,” he instructed an viewers at Husson College. “So, the governor’s workplace’s position is to move laws that permits college boards to listen to from the mother and father, and the mother and father and the varsity board ought to decide what goes into the libraries.”

LePage is seemingly referring to the antics of a far-right agitator named Shawn McBreairty, who has been repeatedly banned from getting into various colleges throughout the state after spending the previous two years harassing lecturers and faculty boards over CRT and books containing LGBTQ subject material. McBreairty first obtained nationwide notoriety after receiving a legal trespass order from SAD 51 colleges — which encompasses colleges in Cumberland and North Yarmouth — for repeatedly violating district guidelines. 

In 2020, McBreairty turned satisfied that the varsity was calling residents of Cumberland “white supremacists” and instructing “crucial race principle” after it launched a press release denouncing white supremacy and committing to racial fairness within the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In violation of college guidelines, McBreairty padlocked an indication to a faculty fence, disrupted quite a few college board conferences and distributed flyers denouncing college officers to Greely Excessive Faculty college students. At one level he even put a billboard-sized signal of a faculty board member’s face on his garden that he claimed was surrounded by rat traps.

McBreairty forged himself as a free speech martyr in an look on Tucker Carlson’s Fox Information present, implying, falsely, that he was prohibited from attending his daughter’s commencement for battling with the varsity for holding what he described as “anti-white coaching.”

After that look, McBreairty rocketed to right-wing stardom and have become a chapter chief of the “No Left Flip Schooling,” one of many largest organizations concern mongering about racial fairness in colleges. The group and its founder have in contrast educators to Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler and claimed that “black bigotry in the direction of whites” is a “very actual downside.” However McBreairty was an excessive amount of of a free cannon even for that group. No Left Flip later fired him in 2021 after he pled responsible to improperly influencing a Cumberland college official by threatening to launch a recording of the deceased father of a faculty board member in the event that they didn’t resign.

McBreairty on Fox Information | Picture by way of video

Since then, McBreairty has been working because the particular initiatives director for former state Rep. Larry Lockman’s white supremacist group, generally known as the Maine First Challenge. Lockman has spent the previous 40 years attacking LGBTQ rights and folks of shade. Lockman, who as soon as wrote a homophobic guide titled The Aids Epidemic: A Residents’ Information To Defending Your Household And Group From The Homosexual Plague,” recurrently promotes white supremacist “Nice Substitute” conspiracy theories and accuses pro-immigrant lawmakers of waging a “battle on whites.” LePage has lengthy supported Lockman and his hateful agenda, having endorsed him for state senate and stood beside him throughout his marketing campaign roll out in 2019.

Most disturbingly, McBreairty and Lockman continuously identify particular person lecturers of their defamatory accusations on conservative radio reveals, podcasts, newsletters and on social media. One in all McBreairty’s favourite targets is 2022 “Maine Trainer of the Yr” Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth grade instructor at Reeds Brook Center Faculty in Hampden. College students have described Stoyanova as passionate about instilling a love of studying and making all college students really feel valued and accepted. 

“In Ms. Stoyanova’s classroom, you’re feeling seen, you’re feeling heard, you’re feeling cherished,” former scholar Roz O’Reilly instructed the Bangor Day by day Information. 

Nonetheless, McBreairty, who doesn’t have any kids in Hampden colleges (or in any Okay-12 colleges), has accused Stoyanova of “hyper-sexualizing” college students and selling CRT as a result of she launched a studying listing for college kids that included Black and LGBTQ authors.

Paradoxically, McBreairty and Maine First Challenge truly promoted a toddler intercourse offender whose  transphobic positions they agreed with. Final spring, Maine First Challenge platformed a self-described “ex-transgender girl” who’s a convicted little one intercourse offender and a life time registrant on the intercourse offender registry.

Combating again towards the anti-teacher witch hunt

Happily, McBreairty and Lockman have been typically unsuccessful in taking up college boards, as right-wing cranks who oppose range, fairness and inclusion have fared poorly in Maine. As one latest ballot reveals, most mother and father like their public colleges and lecturers and assist them by extensive margins.

Nonetheless, the fury and fearmongering of a vocal right-wing minority is having a significant impression with conservative voters. One latest ballot discovered that whereas Democratic assist for public colleges has elevated through the pandemic, Republican confidence in public colleges has plummeted to an all-time low. Final spring, Maine Republican Get together conference delegates even handed McBreairty’s “Don’t Say Homosexual” decision to ban CRT and intercourse schooling in colleges and restrict what college employees can say about gender and sexuality. 

Free public schooling is one among our most respected establishments and a cornerstone of our democracy. Its mission is to offer each younger individual within the nation with an equitable, inclusive and high quality schooling that fosters a life-long love of studying and provides college students the data they have to be lively, knowledgeable contributors within the democratic course of. Whereas public schooling could not fully dwell as much as its beliefs, we have to proceed working to strengthen and enhance it for future generations of younger learners.

Our educators pursue instructing to not get wealthy however as a result of they’ve a ardour to form younger minds. It’s not a simple job, although. It entails offering differentiated instruction for numerous learners, countless paperwork, early mornings and late nights getting ready classes, disciplining college students, coping with bullying and issues at house, and spending cash out of 1’s personal pocket for classroom supplies on account of lack of funding.

The stress of working by means of the pandemic together with the fixed smears, private assaults and demonization of their career is driving good lecturers out, with greater than a half-million leaving the career for the reason that starting of 2020. Though these far-right activists are small in quantity, they’ve grow to be very influential in our politics and it’s clear that if LePage is elected governor, he’ll proceed to empower them and legitimize their bigoted grievances. 

If you happen to worth public schooling, racial justice, LGBTQ rights and the separation of church and state, sitting again and rolling your eyes at these antics is not an possibility. We have to manage and struggle again towards this elitist, hateful agenda and ship LePage again to Florida in November.

High photograph: Former Gov. Paul LePage | Beacon 


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