Hello to The Windham Eagle. I congratulate you on your opening. I represent Maine House Seat 103, including Raymond, Frye Island parts Poland and Standish.
In joining the legislature in 2010, I was asked to pick a committee assignment and I was assigned to my second choice, the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. I have felt blessed to be there ever since. This committee is overseer of all public education areas, the various other school types (magnet, private and charter) and all university and community college areas. In terms of cultural affairs, we manage organizations such as The Maine State Museum, The Maine State Library, The Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Maine Historical Society, Maine State Cultural Affairs Council, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Humanities Council, MPBN (Maine Public Broadcasting Network) and FAME (Finance Authority of Maine).
Arguably this is the second busiest committee after Health and Human Services (not including Appropriations who seem to be at work continually).
We expect to consider 150 bills this session out of the 1,548 so far being put forward to the 17 committees.
The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee is noteworthy due to the fact that it seems to operate differently than other standing committees. This year it consists of eight Democrats, five Republicans and one Native American. The past two years had the numbers flipped by party (8 Republicans and 5 Democrats). I say operate differently, perhaps with a little bias as it is the committee I have spent most of my time in. However, I did serve for one year on the special Regulatory Fairness Committee, and for the next two years I will be on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Both of these committees have been enjoyable but my premise in discussing the education committee is that somehow the members of the EDU committee do a better job than most leaving their personal agendas at the door.
Perhaps it is due to the fact we all experience education in our lives or maybe it is because all involved truly want our kids to thrive. Whatever the reason, this committee seems to work well together. Discussions are lively, but respectful and votes over the past 2.5 years are not consistent party line votes but any number of different voting patterns. We have worked through issues such as charter schools, standards-based education, teacher evaluations, student restraints, bullying and of course the various fiscal issues. Educate Maine, an organization that promotes education and business partnerships gave the Maine Education and Cultural Affairs Committee its Weston L. Bonney Leadership Award for our work in bi-partisan efforts to pass a proficiency based education model known as LD 1422 in an event a few months back.
This new year has seen new leadership and a 50 percent change in the makeup of the committee, but you still see no pattern in the voting as committee members seek to do what they each believe is best for our children. I can not say I agree with all my peers on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, but I know I respect each highly.
Rep. Mike McClellan