Has LePage really given up on setting Maine’s education agenda?

Good morning from Augusta, where some eyes will be cast toward Auburn and William Beardsley’s talk on the state of education in Maine.

The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center is hosting Beardsley today for the first of two planned addresses titled “Maine Education at the Crossroads.” Today’s event is booked solid; the second is scheduled for noontime Thursday at DiMillo’s on the Water in Portland.

Beardsley’s speech comes on the heels of a tumultuous couple of days that started Monday morning when he and LePage hosted a private meeting at the Blaine House of a blue-ribbon commission tasked with studying Maine’s education funding formula and school performance.

(I know, I know, this is all review but we’ve got to accommodate people who haven’t been tuned in. For their sakes, I hope there are many.)

Complaints about the private meeting angered LePage, who said later in the day and again Tuesday morning that he was pulling the executive branch out of the project, including the Department of Education, even though the commission was LePage’s idea in the first place. Just hours later on Tuesday, Beardsley and the Department of Education were telling reporters that he will continue to chair the commission.

It’s been a whiplash week in the political world and it’s only Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see what Beardsley has to say. LePage has made it clear that education reform will be a focus of his remaining years in office and that Beardsley will lead the effort, acting as Maine’s de facto education commissioner even though LePage has pulled Beardsley out of the legislative confirmation process that would make him a commissioner.

According to people who were at Monday’s meeting, two documents will loom large in the commission’s work: the $400,000 so-called Picus report from 2013, which studied Maine’s school funding formula, and the landmark Education Evolving plan developed and implemented by Steve Bowen, who was LePage’s first commissioner of education. The Education Evolving plan is broad, but has individualized instruction for students, allowing them to learn at their own pace, at its core.

People, I have just stumbled on the PERFECT soundtrack for today. Enjoy! — Christopher Cousins

Solar bill action still pending

A lot of people have been wondering what will become of LD 1649, the bill that if enacted would revamp Maine’s solar energy policy. The bill, which was worked for months by the Legislature and representatives from the energy sector, had an easy go in the Senate but passed through the House of Representatives with a 91-56 vote — which is short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

That’s significant, since the bill is currently on LePage’s desk. The governor said Tuesday that he is working with legislative leaders to find a compromise that would avoid a veto, but that he wasn’t hopeful.

“I think the veto is due today,” said LePage during a radio interview on WVOM. “I’ll see what we can do but it doesn’t look very good. … I think I’m going to be forced to veto it.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has been in negotiations with LePage about the bill for at least a week, according to Ann Kim, her spokeswoman. The negotiations have at times neared a compromise but have then fallen apart again.

Kim and Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, said LePage’s decision on the bill — whether to veto it, sign it or let it go into law without his signature — is due by Thursday evening. The Legislature returns on Friday to consider all of the bills LePage has vetoed in the past couple of weeks.

Stay tuned to bangordailynews.com and we’ll keep you posted. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

It was so snowy that…

  • Hitchhikers were holding up pictures of thumbs.
  • Richard Simmons started wearing pants.
  • Dunkin Donuts was serving coffee on a stick.
  • We had to chop up the piano for firewood (but we got only two chords).

Because this is our last chance for months to tell snow jokes. Right? RIGHT!? — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.