A Bad Feeling….


Jon Reisman

Now that I am retired, I have more time to keep an eye on legislative mischief. I keep an eye on education, energy and environmental policy, generally tracking four committees: Education and Cultural Affairs, Energy and Utilities, Environment and Natural Resources and Agriculture and Conservation. Occasionally I will take a flyer on Veterans and Legal Affairs and Judiciary. In this post-Covid age, I generally do not travel to Augusta, but instead offer written or zoom testimony when a legislative proposal piques my interest or concern.

LD 489, An Act to Provide Equal Educational Opportunity by Adopting Rules Ensuring Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Protected Class Status in Educational Institution, gave me a bad feeling. Perhaps it was the collection of Democratic sponsors, including both Education Committee Chairs Rep. Brennan and Sen. Rafferty, House Speaker Talbot-Ross and our own Rep. Perry. It might have been the title and the ongoing efforts of Governor Mills, Attorney General Frey, Education Commissioner Makin, the Maine School Management Association, the Maine Education Association and the Democratic Party to insert and impose woke Diversity, Equity and Inclusion indoctrination in our public schools and subvert the Supreme Court’s recent order to stop discriminating in the basis of religion in school choice decisions. Or it might have been my Statler and Waldorf internship, or a combination of all three. 

Mercifully, the text for LD489 was a short read:

The Commissioner of Education shall have has joint rule-making authority with the (Human Rights) commission to effectuate this subchapter. On or before January 15, 2024 and at least once every 10 years thereafter, the Commissioner of Education and the commission shall jointly review rules adopted pursuant to this section and, if the Commissioner of Education and the commission determine that those rules must be amended to reflect changes in statute  and best practices to ensure an individual's right to freedom from discrimination in education, the Commissioner of Education and the commission shall as soon as practicable initiate rulemaking in accordance with this section. 

 SUMMARY 14 This bill amends the Maine Human Rights Act to direct the Commissioner of Education and the Maine Human Rights Commission to review the rules made under the Maine Revised Statues, Title 5, chapter 337, subchapter 5-B on or before January 15, 2024 and at least once every 10 years thereafter to reflect changes in statute and best practices to ensure an individual's right to freedom from discrimination in education. It also requires the department and the commission to initiate rulemaking as soon as practicable if the review determines that amendments to the rules are necessary.

The public hearing was set for Thursday, March 23 at 1 PM. I submitted the following written testimony:

Thank you for accepting this testimony in opposition to LD 489. My name is Jon Reisman. I have recently retired after 38 years at the University of Maine at Machias as an associate professor of economics and public policy. For a decade, I was chair of the Professional Studies division, which housed the Education program. In the 90’s I served as a special projects manager in the King administration, getting rid of car testing and rejecting school administration consolidation. I am a Selectman for the Town of Cooper, a weekly columnist for two Washington County weeklies and a Statler and Waldorf intern.

My opposition to LD 489 stems from concerns that the bill will:

Use opaque rulemaking to accomplish what the legislature was unwilling or unable to accomplish with regards to gender, sexuality, curriculum transparency, parental notification, First Amendment (free speech and religious freedom) and local control policies;

• Reduce local control;

• Under the cover of “best practices”:

-Expand “anti-racist” equity efforts that justify discrimination and racial preferences

-Sustain affirmative action policies the Supreme Court is poised to strike down

-Extend the malign indoctrination influence the Maine Education Association continues to exercise on our children in public schools.

I would be glad to answer any questions at [email protected]

I do not expect it will do much good, but like Statler and Waldorf, I feel better for complaining from the gallery. Maybe Rep. Perry will write in to explain her sponsorship and why my concerns are unfounded.

Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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