By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Whew! Thank goodness Lewiston’s school budget was approved before the Maine Department of Education released its school grades.
I would speculate that if the public had gone to the polls knowing how poorly Lewiston’s school system had scored, voter turnout would have been high, resulting in an overwhelming defeat of Lewiston school budget.
But, like life, someone has to finish last. Unsurprisingly and living up to its reputation as a welfare destination, Lewiston to the surprise of no one won the race to the bottom, thus reprising our all-too-familiar role of Cinderella. Immediately our evil stepsisters (the media and the affluent progressives of Southern Maine) began to focus on and publically dissect the composition of Lewiston’s population.
This type of attention only serves to discourage people of substance from moving here.
Thursday’s daily paper was full of unfortunate handwringing by Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster and Jim Cliffe, the principal of the failing Montello School. I use the word “unfortunate” because they have absolutely nothing for which to apologize. Unless you’re in dire need of a remedial reading course, the reason for our failing grades was laid out quite clearly in newspaper articles and the broadcast media.
When I was a police officer, we were required to qualify with our firearm twice a year, once during the daylight hours and once at night. Firing at stationary targets, most officers scored highly in both sessions. Upon progressing to a new firearm training program, “Shoot, don’t shoot,” firearms scores fell due to the increased pressure placed on the officer. When confronted by a real situation, well, just listen to the media reports.
The same is true with teachers. Place them in a learning environment where students are motivated to learn, do their assignments, study hard and have parental support, they come off as super stars. Place them in a learning environment where a quarter of the students are problem learners, and the teachers’ instruction abilities fall.
Place them into a system where a large percentage of students don’t speak English, see no value in learning, come to school tired and hungry and continually disrupt classes and assault classmates and occasionally teachers. Under these conditions, let’s see how effective teachers from our more affluent communities would be.
As mayor of the City of Lewiston I am not going to sit passively and quietly by while the competency of our school superintendent, our school principals and our teachers is put up to ridicule by academics, people from affluent parts of Southern Maine and the news media.
The real story is not that we have a failing system, but why? The real story is not our failing system but how did we get to this point? The real story is not the perceived ineptness of our school system, but who’s responsible for enabling (yes, I said enabling) this to happen?
When the public looks at the Lewiston School Budget, they see a large monetary number. I see a lean, responsible budget. I commend members of the Lewiston School Committee and Superintendent Webster for their hard work in putting together this budget.
The real cause of Lewiston’s educational problems? Excessive and generational welfare. It has created an underclass society that attracts many homeless people and aggressive street beggars to our city. Throughout the city, we have rundown neighborhoods where a vast majority of residents would rather live in squalor than to clean up the area around their apartments.
This indifference leads to condemned buildings and structures, creating a danger of fire and nests for illegal activity. It adds expense to our property taxpayers, who must provide the money to tear the buildings down.
Why work when the government will pay all or a portion of your rent, provide you with free healthcare, free medication, food, clothing and money to provide needed and questionable sundries. Maine’s excessive welfare generosity proves to be a barrier when trying to attract residents and businesses to our area.
Daily, the average working person complains about our growing welfare problem. Complaints are heard from everyone with one exception: our state legislative delegation. They remain mostly silent on the issue, occasionally popping up to pay nothing more than lip service. They never express indignity over the issue, but remain silent.
Your rarely see them submit legislation to slow down Lewiston’s plight, and you never hear about our legislative members killing welfare reform legislation in committee.
In November, will you go to the polls and reward them for the indifference to our plight, or will you fire them for not doing their jobs?