Since my first run for office three years ago, I have consistently stayed focused on the issues that are important to the people of the district and to all of the people of Maine.
Always at the top of my list, because it is and should be at the top of all of our lists, is good schools and a good education for the youth of our state. The big problem is that we need an equitable way to pay for them and an equitable system that ensures that each child in this state, no matter what the economic strength of his or her community, is ensured of receiving a first rate education — an education that will permit all of Maine’s youth to have equal footing as they go forth to earn a living and to build a career.
For most towns, the property tax is an oppressive burden and, still, many schools cannot keep up. Whether in Falmouth or Fort Kent, each Maine child should be assured of receiving a first rate education. Falmouth should not be brought down to some lower level — the lower economic stratum districts must be brought up to the level of Falmouth.
Like most of you these past two weeks, I have been busy trying to keep my pipes from freezing, while assisting neighbors and constituents with their problems. Still, some have had time to send in letters to the papers that completely mislead on the direction of my proposed Constitutional amendment. Their scary claims of my trying to take away local control are just hogwash directed to frighten those who do not know, put forth by those who willfully choose to distort the facts.
My amendment is not an attack on local control. In fact, my amendment rids the state of our hugest mandate, which is the exact opposite of local control. My amendment gets rid of the awful clause right now in our Constitution, which requires the towns to educate “at their own expense.” In effect, my amendment gets rid of the mandate now on our books which wrongfully allows the state to have all the power to require all the towns to pay for all education.
My amendment gets rid of this mandate and replaces it with a far more appropriate state-local partnership. My proposed amendment asks legislators in Augusta to partner and work with the towns and the people all over Maine to ensure that each child gets a first rate and equitable education. In short, my amendment is about getting rid of the state mandate and making education a partnership effort where the Legislature has the responsibility to team with the towns to help with education and relieve the oppressive property tax burdens on towns in this district and others like it.
In the next weeks, legislators in Augusta will be discussing and voting on this education amendment. If two-thirds agree, then you, the people of Maine, will have a chance to vote on this issue. In other words, our vote in the Legislature will allow you to move forward to ensure that your children and grandchildren receive a proper education.
Please join me in support of this vital effort to see that the children of this district and others like it do not get the short end of the stick. Join me in support of requiring the state to fulfill its responsibilities of providing a good education without taxing property holders beyond their means. Join me in support of the purist of ethics that, no matter where a Maine child lives, they will have equal and first rate educational opportunities.
Susan W. Longley is a Democratid state senator from Liberty.