Libby Mitchell responds to Cutler op-ed…


Yesterday, I suggested that gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s recent Bangor Daily News op-ed raking Sen. Libby Mitchell and the Maine Education Association over the coals might be an indication that education issues will play a central role in the fall campaigns. I also suggested that in that debate, if it is to happen, Sen. Mitchell will be forced into defending a status quo that she “had no small hand in creating.”

As if on cue, Sen. Mitchell has responded to Cutler’s op-ed with an op-ed of her own. Interestingly, while she does embrace her endorsement by the MEA, she also defends herself as a “reformer.”

Reformer? Libby Mitchell? Really?

She claims, for instance, that she worked to “bring people together to create innovative schools,” which, she says, give public schools “the ability to adopt the best aspects of charter schools without diverting much-needed dollars from our classrooms.”  The innovative schools bill to which she refers (and which she had no hand in developing, I might add), achieves absolutely nothing. I testified against the bill earlier this spring because there isn’t anything that the bill allows districts to do which they were not able to do prior to the bill’s passage.

If Sen. Mitchell did play a role in the development of the innovative schools bill, it was one of working behind the scenes from her Senate leadership position to stifle a bipartisan  attempt to replace the bill with charter school legislation.

Mitchell goes on to claim that she also helped to set up a system “where teacher and principal evaluations are coupled with student performance.” She neglected to mention that the only way such “coupling” can take place is if her supporters in the MEA sign off on it.  The “stakeholder group” she created with a Senate amendment is the only body in the state that has the power to decide the manner by which student performance data is to be used in teacher and administrator evaluations.

And she got the endorsement of the MEA? Amazing!

Mitchell goes on to cite the good work of two Maine teachers, and suggested that while there are “a lot of ideas out there” for making Maine’s schools better, there is “no way we will succeed unless we support the amazing teachers that lead our classrooms.”

What does this bit of political platitudinousness actually mean?

It means that if Libby Mitchell is elected, what she did with the student performance data bill, which was to empower the MEA to decide how such data is to be used with regard to evaluating teachers and administrators, will be the model for the development of education policy moving forward. The MEA, will, in effect, be directing education policy for the state from inside the governor’s mansion.

Gubernatorial debates will be coming along this fall, and here is the first and only question I’d ask Libby Mitchell: describe for us an example – any example – of a time when you advanced an education “reform” proposal over the strenuous opposition of the MEA and got it enacted despite that opposition. I’m not greedy, just one will do.

UPDATE: Kudos to Derek Viger of, who did some great detective work on the two teachers Mitchell cited in her op-ed:

Our schools cannot succeed, says Mitchell, without the support of Maine’s teachers.  Mitchell then speaks of two Maine teachers who exemplify quality teaching to the candidate.  One of the teachers, Marta Robbins, is chair of the MEA’s Human, Civil Rights & Cultural Affairs committee.  The other, Bob McCully, is on the MEA Board of Directors.

So here’s the question: Which of the following happened?

Did the MEA craft the op-ed and include the two MEA higher-ups as examples of effective teachers?

Did Mitchell’s campaign draft the op-ed and check in with MEA to get the names of the two teachers?

Or, is it sheer coincidence that out of the thousands of teachers in Maine, Mitchell cited two by name who were high-ranking MEA officials?

And you thought I was getting carried away by suggesting that the MEA would be running the show once Mitchell was in the Blaine House!