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Paul LePage, Maine Governor, Lays Out Education Proposal, Says High Schools Should Pay For Graduates' Remedial Courses

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage
Maine Gov. Paul LePage

Maine Gov. Paul LePage thinks school districts should be responsible for their graduates' remedial courses in college.

So in a plan to improve education for students in the state, the Republican governor has laid forth a a remedial plan that he will propose in the next legislative session, noting the high number of students who need remedial classes when entering college as proof that Maine's public education is failing taxpayers and students. And the state's reputation is suffering for it.

"I don't care where you go in this country -- if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon now," LePage said, according to The Portland Press Herald.

A report published last week by Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance placed Maine 40th out of 41 states for improvements in student test scores between 1992 and 2011 for fourth- and eighth-graders in math, reading and science.

The plan is called "ABC," for accountability, best practices and school choice. The proposal calls for a new accountability system to identify improvement needs in schools, borrowing best practices from other states and expanding charter schools. Requiring schools to pay for graduates' remedial courses would also make schools more accountable for their students, LePage told the Associated Press.

He notes that 54 percent of those entering Maine's community colleges have to take remedial courses to re-learn basic tools. The same goes for 20 to 25 percent of the state's four-year university students.

"The parents of this state pay taxes for public education, then they have to pay a second time when their kids enter college," LePage told the PressHerald. "That's inappropriate."

Maine students are just a piece of the larger remedial coursework expansion across America. According to Complete College America, a Washington-based nonprofit aimed at increasing college completion, four in 10 high school graduates are required to take remedial courses when they begin college because they aren't prepared.

That figures to about 1.7 million students nationwide, at a cost of $3 billion a year. Experts agree with LePage, saying that remedial coursework makes taxpayers pay twice: once for students to learn in high school, and again in college. To make matters worse, the courses haven't shown to increase college degree earnings, but inflate student loan debt at a time when the country's total student debt has topped $1 trillion.

According to New York City’s high school progress reports last October, just 25 percent of students graduating from the city’s high schools in 2011 were prepared for college coursework. In January, the New York Post reported that nearly eight out of 10 high school graduates who enrolled at CUNY community colleges last fall were deemed unable to do college-level work and were ultimately required to take remedial classes.

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