New anti-Rector flyer bruits his vote on charter schools
Thomaston — A new political flyer about state Sen. Chris Rector, R-Knox, labels him to be someone who has "sold out kids" and who wants to turn public schools "into profit machines for corporations."
The advertising message in the flyer cites Rector for having "sold out our kids and our economy by voting to use taxpayer dollars to privatize our schools."
On the flip side of the flyer, there is a photo of an elementary school-age girl sitting in front of the principal's office, which has been renamed the office of the "School CEO."
The flyer is paid for by the Citizens Who Support Maine's Public School PAC, located at 35 Community Drive, Augusta, which is also the address of the Maine Education Association, the labor union for Maine's teachers. A call to the MEA phone number will get one through to Rob Walker, the PAC president.
The flyer lists Rector's vote for the Maine's new charter school bill, L.D. 1553, in June 2011. That bill set the stage for charter schools, which subsequently included for-profit virtual schools, a proposed plan to create taxpayer-funded virtual schools in Maine.
Rector said he assumes the flyer to be an attempt by his opposition "to seat one of their own," because in his case the opposition is state Rep. Ed Mazurek, D-Rockland, who is a retired high school teacher.
Walker, however, said, in a phone interview, the greater concern to the MEA is about Rector's support of charter schools and the implication of their being a vehicle for electronic "virtual schools," which once again this year are attempting to enter Maine. The 2011 charter school bill has given virtual schools an inadvertent foothold, Walker said.
The charter school bill opened the door for two private virtual schools, K12 Inc. and Connections Academy, trying to come into Maine, he said.
Rector believes a flyer like the one used against him became possible after the Jan. 21, 2010, U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The decision made it legal for the first time in decades for corporations, including nonprofits, trade associations and for-profit corporations, "to pay for advertising that explicitly encourages an audience to vote for, or against, a particular candidate," according to the Wikipedia website.
"This [kind of] advertising is one of the elements of politics that I find pretty challenging," Rector said.
William Jones of Hope, a Knox County Budget Committee member whose wife, Judith Jones, is with the Maine Association of Charter Schools, said the framers of the charter school bill had not intended "to have a window for virtual learning in the bill."
"We wanted the bill to be bi-partisan, and the Democrats wanted to put virtual learning in the bill," said Jones, who works with his wife on the project.
"We have discovered that virtual learning is much more complicated than anybody realized," he said.
The digital education movement is an outgrowth of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation in Excellence in Education, according to the MEA's white paper, "Virtual Failure: The Growth of Online Charter Schools." which says that Gov. Paul LePage has been influenced by the Florida organization in creating his own digital learning executive order.
Jones said he is "disappointed that the teachers' association seems to be so negative about charter schools."
Walker said the MEA's opposition to private charter schools is their willingness to employ non-certified teachers and their use of money from existing local school budgets.
"Our concern that students will not receive the highest quality education available to them if they 'attend' virtual schools cannot be overstated," according to the MEA in its introduction to its white paper.
While the MEA acknowledges that "e-learning," or electronic distance learning, may have a place of importance in supplementing classroom activities, the virtual classroom should not "supplant the value that student and teacher interactions provide."
The MEA is also opposed to spending "taxpayer dollars" on virtual schools that are out-of-state corporations, according to the organization's white paper.
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or email at email@example.com.