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Glimmer of Hope: LePage and Possible Maine Teachers' Contract

The state's largest teachers' union is calling it a "good start." Gov. Paul LePage used his State of the State message to say teachers need to be paid what they are worth. (Opposing Views/Wikmedia)
The state's largest teachers' union is calling it a "good start." Gov. Paul LePage used his State of the State message to say teachers need to be paid what they are worth. (Opposing Views/Wikmedia)
February 13, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage raised the possibility of a state teachers' contract during his State of the State message last Tuesday, and the state's largest teachers' union says that it's a hopeful development.

LePage has been talking about the need to pay Maine teachers what they're worth. Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association, said they're more than willing to listen, even though LePage has yet to provide many details.

"The MEA has been trying to get together with the governor of Maine since spring of 2013, and we haven't had any meetings until a week ago,” Kilby-Chesley said; "so this is a good sign that we are starting to talk."

LePage has said he wants to use financial incentives to encourage the state's more than 140 school districts to consolidate or regionalize. That proposal may be a difficult sell with state lawmakers.

Kilby-Chesley said her union is the largest democratic organization in the state and it’s not up to her to determine whether to start negotiations. She said the MEA is polling members to see if they want to engage in efforts to win a state contract.

"So, what the governor and I can agree on is that teachers need to be paid more,” she said. "The bill last year was to start teachers at $40,000. That's a good place to start, perhaps, but I can't guarantee that that's what he's got in mind, and I can't guarantee in the end that's what we would have in mind."

Maine ranks 33rd out of the 50 states in teacher pay. State Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, offered up a measure in 2016 that would have raised starting pay from $30,000 to $40,000 per year for K-12 teachers. The measure - L.D. 1370 - died between houses last April.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME