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Hello. This is your Governor Paul LePage.

For me, being a parent is one of the greatest joys of life. I have been blessed with five healthy children, all of whom are productive adults in society today.

Not all attended the same schools or expressed similar interests in careers, but what they did all have in common was a solid education that put them on a path toward success.

I want all Maine children to be equipped with a roadmap to success, and for that to happen we must do two things: put our children first and focus on improving our education system.

This past week, I attended the Governors Education Symposium in North Carolina with both Democrat and Republican colleagues. We talked about the challenges facing public education and how important it is to compete in the global market.

We all know that education and economy are two of the same – there is little success of one without the other. And in today’s competitive world, it is not enough to be college ready. We must also be preparing our students to be career ready.

College is only one piece of the puzzle. According to Georgetown University Center, colleges and universities represent only 35 percent of the entire postsecondary education and training system. Experts say the rest consists of on-the-job training, formal employer-provided education programs, military training and apprenticeships.

Right now, governors from across the country are emphasizing the importance of Career and Technical Center education. In order for our economy to thrive, we must understand what jobs are available and explain to students that there are many trade skills that are highly sought after, which means, often times, these occupations pay more money.

Mainers earn only 82 percent of the New England average. In the private sector the numbers are even lower with Mainers making only 75 percent of what others earn across the nation. We must improve these numbers and we can start to do that by training students for today’s jobs – jobs that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While career readiness is a crucial element of our education system it does not replace the need for postsecondary education. Colleges and universities are an important gateway in our learning system. It’s proven that a college degree is the key to unlocking access to the middle class or better.

But success does not come without an effective teacher or professor to guide students along the way. This notion was a major point of discussion at the conference that both Democrat and Republican governors agreed on.

Maine has more than 16-thousand teachers. I have no doubt that each one wants to make a difference in the lives of young people. What I am not so sure about is whether our teachers are being provided the on-going training and support that is needed to keep up with the latest education demands.

In two years, national standards known as Common Core will be implemented in all but four states. The Common Core State Standards Initiative focuses on developing college-and career-ready standards and ensures these standards are evidence-and research-based and internationally benchmarked to top-performing countries.

Today, the U.S. ranks 12th in reading literacy, 17th in science and 25th in math. Finland, Korea, Japan and Canada are consistently in the top ranks.

According to a recent study by Michigan State University, of states that are implementing Common Core Standards, including Maine, only 70 percent of teachers have read the standards. Of 6th, 7th and 8th grade teachers around 60 percent feel well prepared to teach their topics. Tell me, if 40 percent of our teachers don’t feel prepared, how can we expect our students to be well prepared?

Last fall, I offered union leadership a challenge. I told them that for every dollar the union put up for on-going training and education teacher development that the State would match it. I still have not received an answer.

In the upcoming months, this administration will work to develop education policies that exemplify proven best practices, which will expand and enhance our learning system. We will ask for bold action and demand our students come first.

If we want our children to be the best of the best we can no longer settle for the status quo.

And, if you’re a parent like me, you want your children to be successful. Let’s help them all get to where they need to be.

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