Having politicked fervently on the twin themes of tightened public money and tighter public accountability, Governor LePage appeared to suffer full concurrent reversals on both principles while addressing a convention of Maine home-schoolers two weeks ago in Rockport.
(Full video and transcript here)
"We need to find ways to allow home-schoolers to take more advantage of public resources ...And I understand that there's a fear from the home-schooling community that, if you do, old Government’s going to get on top of you. Well, I don't believe that that - necessarily - has to be the way. If we formulate how it's going to be done - then we can get our cake and eat it."
Perhaps giddy from the sudden conversion to liberalism, LePage went on to suggest that the state would then augment the taxpayer largess with a new program of laissez-faire home-school college degrees.
"...Along with that, we are going to be pushing for a five-year high school. We need to be sure that you fall into that - that you are part of that - system. ...We need to make sure that your children, once they get to grade twelve, can go one more year and leave your home - or leave the nest - with an Associates degree"
Learning that he proposes to remake public education by incorporating the putative successes of home-school, the conventioneers applauded the Governor warmly.
At last, one was emboldened to ask the Governor if he still believed in Creationism - as LePage stated last May during the primary debates - and that it should be taught in Maine's schools.
True to his nature, the Governor answered frankly:
Do I believe it should be taught in schools? Yes. So, I will - yes - be pushing to have it taught. The likelihood of it passing the state of Maine legislature is not good. So, what we can do to do that is our charter schools, magnet schools, special schools and give them the right to do whatever they want.
Having outlined that strategy, he then broadened it:
I also believe that parochial schools, religious-based schools, should have the opportunity to get state resources. Because it’s not about your religion. It’s not about what your personal belief is in. It’s about the most important person in the classroom which is the student.
Legislators may want to keep a weather eye out for this new, fiscally liberal Governor LePage who apparently also carries a social activist’s briefcase.
If indeed he comes across enough undisclosed state money to subsidize a parallel system of free-wheeling independent and religious charter schools, one of the Governor's first stops will have to be Title 20-A § 2951 which prohibits the use of public funds to pay for private sectarian education.
Second stop, of course, is the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, which the Governor reportedly keeps close to his chest.