BAR HARBOR — Matt Haney, principal of Mount Desert Island High School, and two other Maine principals met with legislative assistants of all four of the state’s members of Congress March 20 to advocate for greater federal support for public schools.
The principals and two executives of the Maine Principals’ Association were in Washington for the annual conference of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
They advocated for full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and for two grant programs for teachers’ professional development.
“The way the allocation process works is that Congress will authorize a certain amount of money for something, but then they will often appropriate far less than they authorized,” Haney said. “So, we are advocating for full appropriations for the special education act and professional development grants.”
He and the other Maine principals also urged support for bills that have been introduced in both houses of Congress that would increase support for student wellness and mental health programs.
“That’s a major need in Maine and across the country,” Haney said. “There are a lot of communities that, even if the school had all the money in the world to provide [mental health] support for students, there are no providers.
“We see that a little bit here in our area, but if you get away from the coast and away from the interstate in Maine, there are communities that have zero resources.”
Another bill for which the Maine principals expressed support in their meetings with the congressional staff members is the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tim Kane (D-Va.)
“It addresses the teacher shortage and principal shortage,” Haney said. “It would provide resources to help schools recruit and retain educators and, in certain high-need areas, would allow the easing of some certification restrictions so there could be alternative pathways to teacher certification.”
The principals also urged support for a bill to provide federal matching funds for new school buildings in rural areas.
The Maine principals who met with the congressional staff members were, in addition to Haney, Jane Stork of Etna-Dixmont Elementary School in Etna, and Matt Gilbert of Mountain Valley High School in Rumford.
Gilbert is president of the Maine Principals’ Association. Haney is president-elect. His one-year term as president begins July 1.
“It will be an interesting year,” he said. “It will involve a fair amount of travel, and I’ll go back to the [national] conference again next year.
“The reason I’m able to do that is because I have such a great team here at school. People have my back. So, I can be gone for periods of time and not lose a lot of sleep over it.”