Times Record: State hypocritical to issue grades while pulling funds (May 1, 2013)

It’s shocking for us to come to the realization that the LePage administration’s rollout of new letter grades for schools may not really be all that bad.

In the same way letter grades may not reflect all the achievements in your child’s education, these grades — issued Tuesday — are a broad-brush measure of how schools are doing in the aggregate. In a market sense, they can be seen as a tool for parents in the process of buying a home, for example.

But take them with a grain of salt. The state can’t even figure out from day to day what its current account balance is; it surely shouldn’t be trusted as the only source for educational standards.

The problem we see is one of hypocrisy, for even as the state goes about winnowing our public schools — by floating vouchers, cutting state aid, dumping them with pension costs, putting the brakes on facilities bonds — it is also demanding greater results.

OK, fine. The state should put its money where its mouth is. Start by funding public education at 55 percent — as the people of Maine overwhelmingly voted in a 2004 referendum — not the rate of 28 percent and falling we get today.

Give teachers tools to expand outreach outside school walls. Open up preschool to all learners age 4 and older.

Above all, to create a system where Maine schools are seen as bastions of learning, the government, as representatives of the public, needs to stop the nasty rhetoric and put its money — our money — closer to the kids, where it belongs. That tide of cash has been going out for a while. It’s time it comes back in. We’re sure it will lift all boats, whatever the letter grade.


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