Paul LePage's Criticism Of Maine Schools Disappoints Principals

In this Friday, April 27, 2012 photo, Gov. Paul LePage responds to questions at his office at the State House during an inter
In this Friday, April 27, 2012 photo, Gov. Paul LePage responds to questions at his office at the State House during an interview with the Associated Press. With control of the Legislature at stake, LePage is making selective appearances on behalf of Republican candidates, turning down more invitations for appearances than he's accepting. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

PORTLAND -- Gov. Paul LePage's latest comments on public education aren't going over any better with school principals than they did with teachers.

At an "Eggs 'n Issues" discussion Friday morning at York County Community College, LePage remarked that Maine's public schools aren't doing a good job of educating students. Even at the state's best high schools, only about 60 percent of the students are rated proficient in English and math, the governor said.

"If you want a good education, go to an academy," LePage said. "If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can't afford it, tough luck -- you can go to the public school."

The head of the Maine Education Association said in a press release issued Friday that LePage "should be ashamed of himself."

"We have no throw-away kids in Maine," Lois Kilby-Chesley said. "The governor should not be saying 'tough luck' to our Maine students."

LePage's spokeswoman said the association took LePage's comments out of context and ignored his message calling for improvement in public education. But school administrators in Portland on Wednesday for the fall conference of the Maine Principals' Association said the governor's comments weren't helpful.

Sheila Jepson, Deering High School's assistant principal, said LePage isn't aware of all the steps being taken to improve public education in the state.

LePage's comments are "discouraging," she said. "There are a lot of people really working hard in our public schools."

Pat Doyle, principal of Oak Hill High School in Wales, said she thinks Maine's public school students are getting a good education and it takes the government, communities, parents and students working together to make improvements.

"I'm saddened by the criticism that's directed at people who have devoted their lives to serving kids," she said.

However, John Farrington, principal of Schenck High School in East Millinocket, said he chalked up the comment as another example of LePage's "shoot-from-the-hip" style.

"I think he meant to say something, but not that," Farrington said, although he admitted he wasn't sure what the governor really meant to say.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: ___

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