How Maine’s Governor Connected Teacher Bonuses and Gay Marriage

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 01, 2012 2 min read
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Normally, the political issue of teacher pay doesn’t cross paths with social wedge issues like same-sex marriage. But Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, brought up both issues when he vetoed a teacher-pay bill earlier this week.

The bill, Legislative Document 1781, would have required that any public-school teacher receiving certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards be paid a $2,000 salary supplement from the state education department, and another salary supplement of at least $1,000 from the teacher’s local school district. It also would have provided an incentive for teachers to apply by requiring districts to pay the application fees of those seeking national board certification.

LePage announced his veto of the bill May 29, but he said it wasn’t because he doesn’t think national board certification is useful. Instead, LePage wrote in his veto that the union should step up and provide more professional development to improve instruction, instead of putting a “band-aid” on the problem by relying on national board certification. He reiterated his previous offer to match money the union set aside for professional development on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Highlighting the fact that the Maine Education Association recently announced its endorsement of the November state ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maine, LePage lowered the boom: “This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development.”

LePage had blasted the union for endorsing same-sex marriage in May, even before his veto of the certification bill, the Bangor Daily News reported. Gay marriage in Maine was legalized in May 2009, but struck down by a popular vote later that year.

Here is a jab-by-jab response to LePage from the MEA on May 30: “He is still mad at our opposition to his raid on the teacher retirement plans, our opposition to charter schools, our opposition to his wide-open school choice bills, our opposition to LD 309 his anti-labor bill, our opposition to his proposed budget cuts in higher education and MPBN, and our opposition to the legislative attack on educator-managed health insurance plans.”

You’ll notice that none of that (and none of the rest of MEA’s statement that I didn’t quote) mentions same-sex marriage.

Quoted in the Bangor Daily News, Rob Walker, the MEA’s executive director, said, “It’s a red herring to sit there and say that a union is responsible for providing staff development, even though we do.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.