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Union Rejects Concept of Statewide Teacher Contract

The Maine Education Association has voted against the concept of a statewide teacher contract, delivering a blow to a policy that’s been heavily pushed by Gov. Paul LePage.

MEA President Lois Kilby-Chesley says the teachers’ union’s board of directors voted against a statewide contract partly because of policy differences, including that her organization didn’t want pieces of the contract to be split up between the state and local districts.

But Kilby-Chesley says she also heard from many educators who said they didn’t want to negotiate with an administration that they feel hasn’t supported the MEA or its members in the past.

“There has to be a point at which we say, ‘This is not going to be best for our members or for our students,” she says. “And we feel like at this point, that’s where we are.”

Teacher contracts are currently negotiated at the district level. But LePage has repeatedly advocated for a statewide contract, saying it could increase teacher pay and help recruit educators to rural areas.

In an email, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor’s office has “tried tirelessly to work with MEA” and is “disappointed” with the organization.

Despite the vote, Kilby-Chesley and Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert Hasson say they plan to keep discussing the issue, including at a scheduled meeting on Friday.

“We’re continuing to look for ways to work together,” Hasson says. “And work with other folks who are interested in finding ways to make this happen.”

For disclosure, the Maine Education Association represents most of Maine Public’s news staff.