While there is a lot of debate about education policy, there should be no question that great teachers are the key to quality education.

Schools and the people who work in them — teachers, coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians — play an essential and positive role in the life of Maine children. Their impact goes beyond the lessons they teach and the grades they give. The great ones are mentors who challenge and inspire, and set students on the path to lifelong learning.

The work they do in the classroom is critical to students, and it is critical for the future of Maine.

The state’s economy is only as strong as its workforce. Maine needs an educated citizenry if the economy is going to grow and lift this state out of the economic doldrums currently faced.

But sadly, more and more these days Maine public schools are asked to do a lot more with a lot less.

Today, Maine students are bringing with them to school greater challenges than ever before, yet the public schools are underfunded and understaffed.


From Washington to Maine, top-down mandates and high-stakes testing continue to tie the hands of teachers and limit innovation in the classroom. It is not good for kids, and it is not working to improve outcomes.

Meanwhile, public school systems are being put down by an arbitrary grading system that attacks and demoralizes teachers and students, while doing nothing to improve education or address the challenges facing public education today.

Mainers deserve better.

That is why, as teachers and students  head back to school, the public must seize an opportunity to recommit themselves to public education throughout Maine. Education is truly an investment in the future, a future where every child receives a world-class education, regardless of zip code; a future where students are taught by teachers who have access to the resources and tools they need to do what they do best: teach.

That means the public can no longer short-change the schools. A decade ago, voters demanded that the state pay 55 percent of education costs and this state has consistently failed to do it. That is unacceptable.

Access to early childhood and pre-K education must be expanded. Research shows early education has an enormous impact on a child’s later success in school and pays huge dividends, strengthening Maine’s economy and spreading prosperity.


Most of all, people need to stop attacking public schools and teachers — the people on the front lines every day, educating the children. Instead, people need to work together in a respectful way to address the challenges this state faces and bring innovation into the classroom.

Everyone knows the lasting impact a good teacher can have on the life of a student.

When I was growing up in Medway, I had the benefit of amazing teachers who were dedicated to helping a young boy growing up in a rural setting to be successful.

And through my sister, who is a public school teacher in southern Maine, I know how hard she works and how dedicated she and her colleagues are to giving the best educational opportunities to every student who walks in the doors of their school.

Maine has so much potential and so much to offer, but people won’t realize that potential until they all work together to forge a new path for Maine that meets the challenges of this time.

As this school years starts, I hope that it is an exciting and rewarding time for Maine students and teachers. And I also hope it serves as a new opportunity for everyone to recognize the importance of the public schools and work together to make them stronger.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud lives in East Millinocket. He is the Democratic candidate for the office of governor of the state of Maine.

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