Little evidence for governor’s claim that Mainers looked down upon

Christopher Cousins/Bangor Daily News

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, left, listens as Gov. Paul LePage speaks during a July 25 State House news conference where LePage said Maine students are looked down upon in other parts of the country.

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage’s recent statement that Maine students are “looked down upon” by people in other parts of the country derives from “life experience,” not any specific incidents or data, according to Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the governor.

“He is a business man. It’s from his life experience of talking to people,” Bennett told the Bangor Daily News on Monday. “While it’s anecdotal, he believes it.”

“I don’t care where you go in this country. If you come from Maine you’re looked down upon,” Le­Page said during a July 25 press conference at which he and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced an outline for their new education reform initiatives. “Twenty years ago if you came from Maine, they couldn’t wait to get you into their school.”

Bennett said Monday that the administration does not have any documents or specific anecdotes to substantiate that statement.

“It’s clear that the governor’s intentions are in the students’ best interests,” Bennett said. “It’s a reflection that Maine is a lot less competitive than it was 20 years ago. The governor told me in a conversation that we have lost an edge and that our students are falling behind.”

During that same press event, LePage said Maine students needed to take a special test to be admitted to William & Mary, a private college in Virginia. A spokeswoman at the school said that is not true.

According to Bennett, the governor also based his “looked down upon” statement on his assessment of a recent study by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance & Education Next, which ranked Maine 40th among 41 participating states in terms of its rate of improvement on standardized tests between 1992 and 2011.

“The Harvard study is a clear indication that we’ve become less competitive, and when you are less competitive, you become less marketable,” Bennett said.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, Senate assistant minority leader and a member of the Legislature’s Education Committee, took issue with LePage’s interpretation of the Harvard study.

“He told half the story of what half that study found,” Alfond said Monday, citing Maine’s high national ranking for fourth grade math test scores and eighth grade reading and writing test scores.

“The governor’s comment that everyone looks down on the state of Maine was another embarrassing moment for the state and does not reflect the great entrepreneurs, students and teachers we have in Maine,” Alfond said Monday. “It puts Maine in the wrong light. Coming from the chief marketer of the state, it’s exactly the wrong message we want to be sending.”

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said Monday that, although Le­Page’s statement “probably wasn’t the best way to use the [political] capital that the Harvard study provided him,” it might help him achieve his goal of educational reform.

“I do get the argument he’s trying to make,” said Brewer, who acknowledged that it’s more common for political leaders to rely on documentation rather than “life experience” to make their case for policy changes.

However, during his tenure as governor, LePage has demonstrated that “he makes these kind of statements on a regular basis,” Brewer said. “He does and says things that the average politician wouldn’t do.”

“Regardless of what he said, who’s to say it wasn’t effective?” Brewer said.

LePage’s style makes him unconventional, Brewer said, but “he’s getting policy wins. That’s what counts. You don’t award beauty points. You reward significant policy accomplishments, and he’s getting them.”

“Different people have differing experiences,” Amy Fried, a University of Maine political science professor who also writes a blog for the Bangor Daily News, wrote in an email. “It is common for governors to propose policies that target education, the economy, health care, and quality of life. However, it is unusual for a state’s chief executive, who is interested in attracting businesses and individuals to the state, to discuss the state’s population in a negative way.”

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Little evidence for governor’s claim that Mainers looked down up

all, 15:45 HST Tuesday
. .Umm . . There certainly is little evidence for governor’s claim that Mainers looked down upon . Why would he say that ? What purpose does it serve ¿
La Canada might look down upon you but the feeling is mutual :D
Alo'ha from another tourist vacation destination . /s Steve

Jason Theriault's picture

Little evidence for governor’s claim

I think the Sun Journal should trademark "Little evidence for governor’s claim", because I can see that becoming a well used phrase.

Open mouth, insert foot..

Again we have this so called gov. putting his foot in his mouth. He is supposed to be doing good things for this state, but instead he is making us all look like losers. When will he start the resignation process??? This state would do alot better without him. This isn't the first time he blurts out what ever numb thought comes into that big head of his. Maine is not looked down upon, but like another commentor stated, most people I have spoken to don't even know where Maine is. I have had to explain to them where it is located, which is pretty sad, considering we learned the names and locations of the states in school when I was in the third and fourth grade..(.yes it was in Maine schools)..LePage has come out with so many false statements, that I'm really surprised he has kept anyone around him to kiss up...I mean stick up for him. I can't imagine having a job like that..defending the dumbest gov in America...

 's picture

What Nonsense

I am normally amused and usually entertained by the antics of Governor LePage. At least, from afar. But these comments go beyond insulting Maine schools and Maine students. This is pure nonsense.
I am a product of the Auburn School system and the University of Southern Maine. I went on to graduate school, earned a PhD, did research at several labs, and now work as a professor and chair of a biology department. In all my years of schooling and traveling, I have never heard a derogatory comment about Maine or Maine students.
I have heard many comments about Maine politics but never a word about the people. The governor has once again given the media fodder to ridicule the people of the state.
“While it’s anecdotal, he believes it.” I would think that the gov's spokesperson could come up with a better defense. Instead, she seems to be confirming his ignorance.

Jason Theriault's picture

The Govenor is correct

People do look down on us.

But the reason isn't our schools. It our governor. The way he acts, the things he says, the rest of the country looks at us and says "You elected that guy?"

The special test LePage was talking about has two questions:

1. Did you vote for LePage?
2. Do you regret that decision?

If LePage wants the rest of the country to stop looking down at us, he should resign.

Or at least stop talking

 's picture

It's sad to say but when I

It's sad to say but when I worked in other parts of the country, Mainers were seen as resourceful, multitalented people. Some twenty years later, the impression I get from some of the same people is that of quaint village bumpkins. The only respect we get from away is from the foodies.

Greg Rose's picture

Don't have solid evidence? Make stuff up, LePage.

"During that same press event, LePage said Maine students needed to take a special test to be admitted to William & Mary, a private college in Virginia. A spokeswoman at the school said that is not true."

And it isn't all Mainers that are looked down upon, it's just you LePage. 39% of Maine voters could not have hand picked a WORSE governor. Shouldn't a governor bolster his state's image instead of making things up to damage it?

JOHN PAINTER's picture

An incredibly poor choice of

An incredibly poor choice of words to describe Maine from the Governor. I grew up in Owls Head Village lobstering like many in my family. As a young person eventually going to Washington state to attend college, then moving to Europe to work and getting married. My wife and I moved back to Maine just over 15 years ago, none of the reasons included because in my experience people looked down on Maine. While I agree our schools need continuous improvement, so do many schools around the country and the world. In my experience whether in this country or abroad, most people don't really know where Maine is, and don't have much if any preconceived ideas about Mainers. My fear is that with headline grabbing commentary at time national usually involving negative remarks (whether "true" or not) could create an image in those brief sound bites that Mainers are angry and uncouth versus what I know, that Mainers are caring and ingenious - thats why I moved my family back.

The Governor's comments

Based on 'life experiences"?

Methinks that the Governor is projecting his own personal experiences into policies that are affecting this state.

I can understand that-but does he have to make it look like all of us are equally as dumb, insecure and inadequate?

I've been other places than this state and I have never been looked down as being from Maine--in fact, I've been envied for it.

Stop personalizing everything, and start being a governor!

It's not all about you!

RONALD RIML's picture

You've hit the Nail (Gubernator) on the Head!!

Concisely to the Point!!!


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