SCARBOROUGH — As a former teacher and current town councilor, I have been taken aback by the recent news that the school funding formula this year will result in significantly reduced school funding in my town.

This reduction will have a negative impact on our ability to offer all students a quality education and will have an immediate impact on the property taxes paid by my constituents: taxpayers who are being asked again and again to shoulder the tax burden of this state while some in the Legislature propose giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to large, mostly out-of-state corporations.

Without immediate action from the Legislature, many schools in Maine will face huge cuts next school year. My town of Scarborough is currently scheduled to see a reduction of over $1.5 million in state funding to our schools.

There are many reasons why schools in Maine will see dramatic losses in state aid if the Legislature fails to act.

n First, the Legislature “flat funded” schools in the two-year budget passed last year over the governor’s veto. While state funding is stagnant, the cost of running our schools, like everything else, has grown.

n Secondly, last year the Legislature added the cost of charter schools into the funding formula and removed them from the individual school system budgets. The cost of those charters has risen steadily. The state currently spends $14 million on charter schools, with that cost expected to rise to over $19 million next school year.

This is a 27 percent increase in the cost of charter schools. Now that the funding for charters is embedded into the school funding formula, these schools get their money right off the top of state aid before a single public school receives a penny.

Yes, that means that the state is funding charter schools before ensuring that our local public schools are well-funded – all while public schools are running more efficiently and keeping costs low, and the cost of privately run charters is set to rise by 27 percent.

Not only is the reckless spending of taxpayer dollars, but it’s not fair to allocate so many state resources to a charter school system that serves so few students while the public education system is asked to do more with less.

What’s more, decreased property values in some parts of Maine are wreaking havoc on school funding everywhere. Our state has lost over $1 billion in state valuation, in large part because of mill closures. The decreased property valuation puts more pressure on local property taxpayers to fund schools and diverts state aid to the communities, like Bucksport, that are experiencing dramatic declines in school funding.

Now is the time to stand up to tax breaks for large businesses, special interests and billionaires. It’s our turn, as average Mainers, to get a tax cut and to have well-funded schools.

Corporate CEOs and billionaires keep getting new tax breaks; they can sit this one out. Our economy is in trouble because politicians in Augusta have stacked the deck against ordinary people, and enough is enough.

House Democrats recently passed a plan to ensure that schools are better funded. Under the plan, Scarborough will receive $800,000 more in restored state aid for schools. But to be clear, even with additional state aid, Scarborough will still need to make up a loss of $750,000 from our current budget.

Other neighboring communities, such as Gorham, would see an additional $319,779 in school funding and property tax relief restored to their budget, while the towns in School Administrative District 6 can expect over $500,000 in restored aid.

Now is the time to act. School boards, selectmen and town councils have just started the process of preparing budgets for the next school year. As municipal officers, we must know how dire our situation is going to be before we make the hard choices about what services to cut and how much we need to ask our local property taxpayers to pay.

Pitting our future, our children, against essential services such as police, fire and public roads is wrong. Investing in education is not an expense. It is the best investment this state can make in its future economic growth.

Every child deserves access to the best public educational opportunities possible. It’s time for our legislators to step up to the plate and do what is right for our children, our communities and the taxpayers.