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Maine School Funding Commission Starts Work

A state commission to study ways to implement recommendations on improving the way the state pays for elementary and secondary education held its first meeting today. The panel - called the Commission to Strengthen the Adequacy & Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula - faces the difficult task of figuring out how to pay for an additional $30 million a year that a study done last year indicates is necessary to adequately fund education.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, a South Portland Democrat who chairs the commission, said taxpayers paid for a  comprehensive study of all elements of the "essential programs and services" - or EPS - formula that drives school funding.

“We did not want that work to suddenly fall away and end up not having any impact and basically have the $300,000 go down the drain," Millett said, ”So this commission was developed to help make sure the discussion around the EPS formula continues.”

Millett said it will be difficult to find additional funds for education, and part of the job of the commission will be to figure out how to phase in the changes over several years.

“I would advocate very strongly that this is where Maine should be investing its money and time. We all have agreed that education is critical, it's what is going to define the future economy of the state of Maine."

The commission is scheduled to complete its work this fall and make its recommendations to the new Legislature elected in November.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.