2017-03-11 Update

2017-03-11  Update

Legislative Update

Introduction - I’ll admit, it was nice to have a day Friday to catch up on “paperwork” and scheduling.  The four days at the legislature were filled with sessions and mostly with committee work. With over 140 bills to hear, the committee chair tells us we are behind schedule, so I can only look forward to longer weeks in the very near future.

Thank heavens for the people who give me rides to and from the legislature.   That half hour drive provides a great chance to talk, to share ideas, and to de-compress the days.

House Calendars - You should have access to the things we do.
   Tuesday, March 7, 2017

   Thusday, March 9, 2017
Events Calendars - Check out the following events at the events calendar on the left of this page or use this link.

  Events

   


This week in the House -  We are still at that stage when most bills simply get referred to committee, but each of them must be mentioned and then referred. It’s how the bill process works.  The House received some 1600 bills for this session and not to refer them to committee for a first pass would extend the session into infinity.

 


This week in the Education Committee

We heard several bills in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and hand several work sessions.  The bill’s initiation presentation is heard - as makes sense - in a hearing. The discussion and vote comes in a work session. The distance between the two gives legislators a chance to think about the merits or liabilities of a bill.  But, it also means keeping ti all straight, and because most everything I do is digital, it means lots and lots of folders in my in-box.

One of the more interesting bills was presented by Representative Dick Farnsworth. It concerned a bill to create a fund which would promote universal Pre-K and Kindergarten classes for all students in Maine. Despite the fact that this was supposed to have been in place by 2017, the original mandate has lapsed.  It was interesting and informative to hear the range of testimony - and especially that testimony from a Sheriff in Maine who presented clear facts and figures on the positive impact of  Pre-K and Kindergarten classes.

A second bill that I found interesting was LD 570 - An Act to Create a Maine Institute of Technology, a concept draft presented by Senate Shenna Bellows.   At some point, we need to realize that the world of the future will be tied to how we research and use technology - and we need to realize that students in Maine who want to pursue those careers already need to go out of state of much of their instruction.  I also believe that we spend a great deal of time looking to the south of New England for support and markets, and that we would be better served to look to the north and east for support and markets.   I do believe that when we see the potentials of connections to Montreal and the Maritime provinces, we will find that we sit right in the middle of a great demographic - Northern New England and Southern Canada.  I think Senator Bellows is onto something - because every dollar we put into education yields a 12-1 return on investment.

 

(Photograph by Peter Lik)


Reflections
At some point, I wish there were agreement and clarity about the Governor’s budget and about the role of education in the state.  I wish there were clarity and agreement about the role of testing in determining student success.

There are times when it feels as though our good intentions undo themselves, and that by doing less we might be accomplishing more.  All too often we pass rules and mandates and then do not give local districts the funds to accomplish those mandates.  

All too often we pass rules to ensure yearly testing and then don’t spend the time assessing for ourselves what those tests mean - even though in delivering those tests we take the students out of instruction for up to ten days.  All too often we tie successful testing to teacher salary - and the test results from last year are quite disturbingly low.  

This weekend, I’ll be researching the work done in Norway, known for educational efficacy but not a great deal of educational testing.  Interestingly enough another of the bills we hear this week had to do with mandating an hour of physical activity for all students, a bill opposed by the Department of Education.  I asked that they research European elementary schools, which are still called by the name “gymnasium.”

 

Finally, I did get a chacne to present my bill to incentivize legislative carpooling. It was well recieved and was covered in teh local paper.




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