RUMFORD — Sen. Angus King wanted to know what is on the mind of teachers across the state. So members of his staff met face-to-face with some of the County Teachers of the Year. Others joined via video-conference from Bangor.

Regional Representative Ben Tucker III, Legislative Assistant Aisha Woodward, and State Director Edith (Edie) Smith learned about issues important to teachers and their students.

Oxford County Teacher of the Year Jeff Bailey participated in the discussion. He is the technology teacher at Mountain Valley High School.

Bailey said, “It was a great opportunity for Senator King’s staff to hear what teachers and students need and also for them to see how some federal and state education policies effect students and families directly. It was also a great opportunity for us as teachers to share some of our hopes and frustrations with Senator King’s staff.”

The group discussed the over emphasis on standardized testing, especially the toll on special education students. Those students are often given the tests without regard to their ability levels. The results are demoralizing.

Another concern was the affordability of higher education for students. According to a Maine Education Association publication, 40 million Americans have student debt. Students in Maine have the seventh highest loan debt in the country. On average, students with a four-year degree leave college with a debt of $29,500.

While discussing higher education, Bailey mentioned two successful federal programs.

He said, “I personally highlighted two federal programs that I feel have been very successful to our students, teachers and families. Gear Up, a college readiness and aspirations program, and Title 2D Funds for ‘Enhancing Education through Technology grants.’ Our students and staff have benefited in the past from these programs and they have, unfortunately, been cut back over the years.”

The Teachers of the Year expressed support for early childhood education and the need to continue to support and expand vocational education opportunities for students.

Bailey added, “I also expressed concerns about aging buildings in our district, citing the leaky roof that MVHS experienced last year, and asked for relief for localities struggling to fund an education for our students and keep up with the physical plant costs as well.”

King’s staff appreciated first-hand feedback from the teachers and expressed a desire to meet again in the future.

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