Democratic Address: Educational Opportunities Fit Hand in Hand with Building the Middle Class and Strengthening Maine's Future

Posted: June 08, 2012 | Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Alfond, Weekly Radio Address
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Democratic Address: Sen. Alfond June 9, 2012

Good Morning. This is Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Justin Alfond of Portland.

In auditoriums across our state, high school seniors are marching before their peers and community to receive their hard-earned diplomas.

Graduation marks an incredible achievement for students, families and communities. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. It’s exciting to dream of the opportunities graduates will have as they enter a job, certificate program, college, or military.

Regardless of their path, graduates are now facing new obstacles.

The unfortunate truth is today’s graduates are facing daunting realities that even their parents did not face.

Today, the price-tag for a college education rivals the cost of home ownership;

Finding a job with a livable wage is too difficult;

And no matter how hard they work, the American dream is nearly out of reach.

Maine students have been shortchanged—and their future’s challenged. Too many students are graduating in to an economy that offers them little.

In a very short time, Republicans have fast-tracked this state on a race to the bottom.

LePage and his legislative allies have made it harder to find a job, keep a job, and earn a livable wage.

They have made it harder to live and work in Maine. Our children shouldn’t have to choose between their hometown—their home state—or earning a living.

As leaders, it is our job to stop this race to the bottom. It is our job to help them find hope in a better tomorrow.

There was a time in our nation’s history when, as President Obama reminds us, “hard work paid off, responsibility was rewarded, and anyonecould make it if they tried.”

Democrats know that most Mainers across this state are working hard—or want to work hard—if given the opportunity, contribute to our communities, and support each other in our own way. That’s simply, what Mainers do.

Democrats know that educational opportunities fit hand in hand with building the middle class and strengthening Maine’s future.

Maine’s workforce is not where it needs to be—we rank 45th in the country for lowest wages.

There’s no doubt that the jobs of the future will require greater skills, training, and education.

If we do nothing, we will continue to lag behind.

It must be the priority of our lawmakers to meet the needs and demands of the current and future workforce and economy. And, access to education and job training is one step toward preparing Mainers for these workforce demands.

In the last year, we’ve made some positive strides in improving our education system. For example, we are now asking school districts to shift to a standards-based, proficiency-based diploma. This will ensure that each student has the opportunity to live up to their academic potential.

We also passed a bill that will make it easier for students to access career and technical education programs. Participation in our strong career and technical programs, provide a critical pathway of success for many Maine students–and, this trained workforce will assist our economy moving forward.

Yet, more can be done.

Too many schools across our state are are faced with challenges that undermine the classroom, our teachers, and ultimately our students.

Critical programs are being slashed.

Teachers are being asked to do more with less.

And, unfortunately, when the governor vetoed the teacher-training bill, he missed an opportunity to give our students the best potential for success in the classroom. Every parent deserves to have the most effective teacher in their students’ classroom—and the governor tried to take that opportunity away.

To those families who already have students in the classroom–or if you’re the parent of a future student–I offer this hopeful ending: the most successful student is the one who has“skin in the game”. When a student is motivated–when a student is inspired–learning will happen. If a student is surrounded by family, teachers, and community that are committed to making learning relevant and inspiring, then, we, as a community, will win. We will have fulfilled our responsibility to ensure that the future generation also has the promise of tomorrow. Democrats are committed to restoring the ladder of success, and the path of opportunity, so that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.

This is Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Justin Alfond. Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.