Proposal Would Reverse Rule Penalizing Schools That Don't Join Regional Centers

Jan 24, 2018

A new bill would restore state funding for school administrators that could be cut in some districts as part of last year's budget agreement. Maine school leaders want to restore state funding for administrators that could be cut for some districts as part of last year's budget agreement.

Under last year's agreement, districts that do not join "regional service centers" could lose nearly $100 per student from the state in coming years. On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from school officials who supported getting rid of those potential cuts.

Many districts say they already share services with other districts and would be punished for not joining a regional center. Diane Helprin, the superintendent of Union 69 in Knox County, said her district already shares services without a regional center and would be hurt by the cuts.

"How does this reduction of administrative support, and the addition of another layer of bureaucracy, help small, rural school districts, where the challenges for regionalization and equity of opportunity are the greatest?" Helprin said.

The state received applications for 23 regional centers last fall. State officials say the centers can provide new educational opportunities for students, and that without more state funding, the new bill would increase the cost of education at the local level.

Furthermore, without more state funding, the new bill could put an added tax burden on some communities. Aaron Chadbourne is a senior policy advisor for Gov. Paul LePage.

"In short, should this bill become law, some of the municipalities and school districts that are supporting this bill are likely to see financial impacts that they were not expecting," Chadbourne said. "Including added costs for the local property taxpayer."

Education reporting on Maine Public Radio is supported by a grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.