Governor signs teacher effectiveness bill

The following is a news release from the Office of Gov. Paul LePage.

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul LePage signed legislation Friday morning that will support teachers, principals and improved teaching in Maine schools. The bill is one of three education initiatives proposed by the Governor which won passage by Legislators.

LD 1858, An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership, requires school districts to adopt teacher and principal evaluation systems that make it clear what’s expected of educators, offer them constructive advice on improving their practice, and support them in their continued professional growth.

“Every student deserves an excellent teacher,” Governor LePage said. “And every teacher and principal deserves clear expectations, and a fair evaluation process that rewards effectiveness, supports teachers needing improvement in getting better, and helps those that cannot improve to move out of the classroom.”

The bill charges a specially appointed group of educators, parents and community members with establishing guidelines for teacher and leader evaluations, and then requires districts to develop evaluation systems based on those guidelines. Districts could also adopt model evaluation systems developed at the state level.

The state-level guidelines protect educators from poorly conducted and bad intentioned evaluations. The goal is to help all educators improve and, for that reason, includes provisions to collect data on educator preparation programs in Maine. Last year, Governor LePage offered the union a competitive match in funding to provide ongoing training and support to teachers, but that idea was rejected by union officials. The new law also creates a group charged with developing rules that allow for an alternative certification process.

“This is a hugely important step – one that has been embraced by a broad spectrum of the education community,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. “The commitment by everyone to make this work is what has brought us to this point and what will make this implementation successful.”

LD 1854, “An Act To Expand Educational Opportunities for Maine Students,” sponsored by Representative Peter Johnson of Greenville was enacted last week by the House and Senate. The original version of the bill would have allowed public and some private schools to become “open enrollment” schools, opening their doors to students from outside their school districts, with public funds following those students who enrolled. However, amendments were added allowing for regional open enrollment agreements among school districts. Under such an agreement, two or more school districts will be able to allow students to choose a school among the districts, provided there is space. The details of such agreements would be left to the districts themselves.

While this measure was significantly scaled back, the Governor noted it’s not the last initiative that will be introduced. “Putting our students first is paramount and we must present opportunities for them to succeed,” commented Governor LePage.   “Multiple pathways to success are created when parents and children have the opportunity to choose what school best fits their needs. An address should not hinder our students’ road to success. Our efforts are not over. I will continue to push for more alternatives so parents have the most effective education available for their child.”

LD 1865, “An Act To Enhance Career and Technical Education,” sponsored by Senator Brian Langley of Hancock has yet to reach the Governor’s desk, but is expected to pass through the Legislature. A fourth Governor’s bill that would have allowed funding for religious schools failed to pass the Legislature.