Union helps defeat charter funding bill that could have saved jobs
An amendment that would have offered financial relief to districts hard hit by charter schools was defeated in the Senate on Thursday after the Maine Education Association lobbied against the proposal despite the fact budget cuts could mean teacher layoffs.
The proposal was defeated along party lines with all 19 Democrats in the Senate voting against it and all 15 Republicans and one independent voting in favor.
Republican Senator Brian Langley of Hancock County and Democratic Representative Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor worked together to help get the amendment passed, and it was supported by the Maine School Superintendents Association and Maine School Boards Association.
The MEA said it opposed the bill because they wanted to keep the hardship being felt by districts losing students to charter schools in the public’s eye. MSSA and MSBA have consistently and strongly opposed charter schools alongside the MEA, but felt the financial hardship being borne by those districts needed to be addressed on a statewide basis.
The amendment that was defeated would have spread the cost of charter schools across all districts in the state by raising the required local share by 3/100 of a mill in the 2015-2016 school year. The state would then pay the per-student costs, as determined by the EPS funding formula, directly to the charter schools instead of having individual districts forward the money.
The proposal would have been particularly helpful to poorer districts with low property values because the mill rate increase would be substantially less than the estimated $9,000 per student they have to pay when a charter school pulls students from their schools.
In SAD 54 in the Skowhegan region, for example, the district will lose $900,000 in state and local aid to charter schools next year. Under the equalized mill rate proposal, the district would have had to pay just $48,000.
Districts like Portland, with high property values, would have essentially broken even if they lost 20 students to charter schools in 2015-2016, and would have made out better under the new formula if that number goes higher.