Maine Department of Education

LEWISTON, Maine - A local school committee in Maine has voted to fund a homeless student program after the Maine Department of Education rejected the school's application for federal funding.

Lead Teacher Beverly Foss teachers her first-grade class at Athens Elementary School.
File photo: Robbie Feinberg/Maine Public

Once again, school funding is under heavy scrutiny in the state Legislature. Voters passed a surtax in November to increase state education funding.

AUGUSTA, Maine — It's been nearly a year since the Maine Department of Education has had a leader who didn't have the words "Acting Commissioner" in their job title.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced late Friday that Dr. William Beardsley would become the state's latest acting education chief.

Appointing acting leaders allows LePage to have someone he wants in the top job, for six months at a time, without having to go through a confirmation battle in the Legislature.

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Maine officials hope that a new database they are poised to unveil will help prospective college students make more informed decisions about what degree to pursue and how much to borrow for their education.

The database, built by the Maine Department of Education and Department of Labor using federal grants, will allow users to view first-year earnings of graduates from Maine public universities and community colleges in various programs. It will also allow them to see how many graduates of a certain program are working.

Jim Rier
Maine.gov

Jim Rier was sworn in as commissioner of the Department of Eduction this past February — and arrived to a desk with an overflowing inbox. Just some of the things on his 'to do list': Maine's transition to proficiency-based diplomas for high school graduates, the second year of those controversial report cards for Maine schools, adopting the national common core standards, more charter schools in Maine and trying to rework the state's school funding formula. How are Maine's schools today? How will the changes affect Maine kids, and will they better prepare us for the future?

Jay Field

Walker School in Liberty made impressive gains over the past year. The school's grade on it's 2014 state report card jumped from a D to a B. Thanks to budget cuts, Walker now shares its principal with another elementary school in the district, Regional School Unit 3. Troy Central School moved from an F to a D this year. According to the state, it's still struggling. But a visit to Troy revealed the same kind of energy and programs in place that eventually allowed Walker School to become more successful.

The latest round of school report cards, released today by the Maine Department of Education, show a majority of schools still struggling to meet the LePage administration's standards for improvement. More than 150 Maine schools received lower grades from the state this year versus last, while nearly 100 schools boosted their scores at least one letter grade.

Overall this year, there were fewer As and Bs and more Ds and Fs, while the majority of schools got a C.

When last year's grades came out, educators across the state railed at Gov. Paul LePage. The governor, they complained, was labeling schools as failing - without offering enough context on the challenges, socio-economic and otherwise, that can get in the way of learning and contribute to low test scores.