As one of the premier Maine labor economists said to me recently, “the best way to think about successful education for today’s economy is to think of a constant cycle between the classroom and the workplace over the course of a life, with everyone taking responsibility – individuals, parents, teachers, schools, employers, and policymakers.” That is the view I will take as governor.
I grew up in a family of public school teachers and graduated from Sanford High School. I served on my hometown school board and helped lead efforts to rebuild Sanford’s high school into a modern school and vocational center before resigning my seat to be deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. I worked my way through Colby College before enlisting in the Army after graduation. I have had countless hours of additional education and vocational training through my service in the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineering Battalion. And I received a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. I will make education a top priority for Maine as governor.
Taking an overall view of Maine’s pre-K-12, college, and community college systems, I have several key priorities:
- We need to honor the will of Maine voters who have twice directed the state to fund 55 percent of K-12 education costs.
- We cannot allow one-in-five Maine children to be “food insecure” – the worst record in New England and the 18th worst in the country. No child learns when they are hungry. This is a failure for all of us in Maine and fixing it will be one of my top priorities.
- We need to set a goal of leading the country on quality universal pre-kindergarten opportunities. It is known fact, per Maine State Chamber of Commerce funded research studies, that for every dollar invested in pre-K education, taxpayers save money in future costs related to addiction, incarceration, and other similar costs.
- Studies show that we start to lose Maine young people by around eighth grade if they do not believe they have a path to either an affordable college education or a rewarding, skilled career. We need entire communities, as well as teachers and policymakers, to get creative and involved to make sure they do.
College and Community College:
- We need to make college affordability a priority. While Maine has one of the highest percentages of high school graduates, we have one of the lowest percentages when it comes to graduates who go on to receive a two or four year degree. I applaud the recent decision by several University of Maine schools to offer an innovative, individualized approach to helping students afford their tuition above and beyond their Pell Grant awards, but we need to do more. I am listening and studying the best approaches for Maine and will have more to say on this issue during the campaign.
- We need to work harder at providing access to skills training, apprenticeship programs and other innovative approaches to connect young people, and those who want or need to make changes during their careers, with the skills they need for new, well-paying jobs and careers.
- I will also work to get business leaders and University of Maine and Maine Community College system leaders working together and moving more quickly to ensure we are providing the education, training, and skills Maine companies are looking for and need in order to grow right here in Maine.