AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage signed an executive order today affirming Maine’s commitment to protecting local education control and student privacy rights.
The Governor’s action prohibiting the influence of the federal government into Maine’s education policy comes after parents and educators have raised concerns about the Obama Administration’s attempts to hijack successful state-led education reforms, including more rigorous, relevant standards in mathematics and English language arts Maine voluntarily adopted in common with other states in 2011.
Maine has had statewide accountability standards for eight content areas since 1997. Known as the Maine Learning Results, these standards are periodically updated to align with the evolving expectations of employers and post-secondary institutions, mostly recently in 2011.
While standards set the expectation of what students should know and be able to do as they progress through each K-12 grade, the curriculum to get there – including textbooks, lessons, teaching methods – is entirely controlled at the local level.
“Maine students deserve the best education in the world that they will one day lead,” said Governor LePage. “Higher standards play an important role in that, but the federal government does not. With my executive order, Maine is making clear that we set the standards for our state, that implementation of those standards is locally controlled, and that students and families have an unalienable right to their privacy that will never be infringed on so long as I am Governor.”
In addition to the executive order, the LePage Administration will continue to assert its constitutional right to state sovereignty over education.
Last week, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen sent a letter to the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce saying Maine would not disclose any identifiable student information to the federal government or connect its data systems with that of any other state or nationalized system.
“We believe this sovereignty is critical to the privacy of Maine students and their families, and to the autonomy of our state’s public education system, which is based on a fundamental right to exercise local control,” Commissioner Bowen wrote.
The Governor’s order also establishes that any future adoption of statewide education standards go through a transparent process with opportunities for public review and comment beyond what is legally required under Maine’s Administrative Procedures Act, including a 60-day posting period.
The Executive Order language is as follows:
AN ORDER REGARDING PROTECTION OF LOCAL EDUCATION CONTROL AND STUDENT PRIVACY RIGHTS
WHEREAS, Under Maine law, the state’s ultimate goal with regard to its schools is that they will “enable today’s students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for postsecondary education, career, citizenship and military”; and
WHEREAS, rigorous state standards detailing expected learning outcomes for students are essential if the state is to meet that goal; and
WHEREAS, The adoption of state standards for learning outcomes should be done in an open, transparent way that includes ample opportunity for public review and comment, and
WHEREAS, The federal government has no constitutional authority to set learning standards in Maine or any other state, nor determine how children in the State of Maine or any other state will be educated; and
WHEREAS, The Maine Constitution specifically grants to local governments responsibility for “the support and maintenance of public schools”; and
WHEREAS, It is therefore the right of local school units, not the state, to develop and or adopt curricula and instructional approaches consistent with state learning standards; and
WHEREAS, The protection of student and family privacy is a fundamental right of all Maine people;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Paul R. LePage, Governor of the State of Maine, hereby order as follows:
That the Department of Education shall not adopt any educational standards, curricula or instructional approaches that may be mandated by the federal government.
That the Department of Education shall not apply for any federal grant that requires, as a condition of application, the adoption of any federally-developed standards, curricula or instructional approaches.
That, consistent with state statute, the Department of Education may provide guidance and technical assistance to schools, but may not require the adoption of specific curricula or instructional approaches.
That any amending of Maine’s Learning Results standards must be done through a transparent public rulemaking process that allows Maine people ample time and opportunity to review proposed changes and provide feedback. Specifically, the Department of Education shall ensure that any amendment to the Learning Results be posted for public review and comment for at least 60 days. Any comments received during this notice period shall be made public prior to final adoption of any changes.
That the collection of student data by school districts and the state Department of Education must be done in a manner consistent with state and federal laws intended to protect student privacy. No personally identifiable data on students and/or their families’ religion, political party affiliation, psychometric data, biometric information, and/or voting history shall be collected, tracked, housed, reported or shared with the federal government, nor provided to private vendors for the purposes of marketing or business development.
The effective date of the Executive Order is September 4, 2013.