AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills on Friday decried Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to eliminate funding through the attorney general’s office for a project that supports civil rights teams in Maine schools.
The Civil Rights Team Project works with civil rights teams and also offers training for school administrators at schools throughout the state with the goal of reducing bias and harassment.
Members of the Legislature’s budget committee on Friday received details of the governor’s change package to the biennial budget — which includes the elimination of two positions that support and advise the teams.
Coming just days after 550 Maine students from across the state attended the annual Civil Rights Team Project conference at the Augusta Civic Center, Mills said she was “very surprised” to learn of the proposed cut.
“The Maine Attorney General’s Office enforces the Maine Civil Rights Act in order to protect the rights of all Mainers to live, work and learn in peace regardless of religion, race, gender, etc.,” Mills wrote. “Two decades ago the Legislature recognized the importance of educating young people about their civil rights and civic responsibilities and it created the Civil Rights Team Project which has existed under independent, Democratic and Republican governors.”
LePage believes that the funding should come from the Department of Education if the programs operate in the schools, the governor’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, said Friday
“The proposal doesn’t reappropriate those funds, but it generates savings that could be redirected to education of anywhere the Legislature chooses,” Bennett added.
Mills said she hopes the Legislature will reject the proposed cut of the program.
Members of the Legislature will continue deliberating on the two-year budget and proposed changes through the weekend, with significant changes to LePage’s proposals likely to emerge.