Thursday July 11, 2013 | 02:20 PM
Posted by Bruce Poliquin

In 2011, the Maine Legislature expanded educational choices for Maine students by allowing the creation of 10 publicly funded charter schools over the ensuing 10 years. Finally, Maine students and their families joined those in 40 other states in being able to benefit from the more innovative and flexible charter programs as compared to most traditional public schools.

This September, five Maine charter schools will open their doors to a few hundred eager K-12 students. Each school successfully satisfied the exhaustive application process managed by the Maine Charter School Commission. Like all public schools, the charters will be closely monitored by the Maine Department of Education for compliance with state academic requirements.  

The budding public charter school movement in Maine is supported by growing bipartisan efforts across the country. Today, roughly 2.3 million American students are enrolled in charters. Parents are attracted to the increased accountability for students and to the ability to retain or release teachers based on their performance.  

Many charter school students struggle in traditional public schools. Maine’s first charter school, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley, offers hands-on study in forestry and agriculture for 9-12 graders who find it difficult to learn in regular classroom settings. The Cornville Regional Charter School teaches life skills such as gardening, woodworking and sewing to its K-6 students.  This fall, the Harpswell Coastal Academy will send its middle and high school students to local fisheries, forests, and farms to add experiential learning to its standard academic courses.

Charter schools around the country are normally funded by the straightforward process of “the dollars following the student.”  If a student enrolls in a charter, the state and/or local school district send the applicable dollars to the charter school to pay for the child’s public education. This common sense mechanism facilitates budgeting for all parties.

Unfortunately, here in Maine, the state legislative majority nearly succeeded in politicizing and complicating the funding process by requiring all charter school dollars to be debated in the state budget. This would have subjected those funds to the political pressure of those wanting to maintain the status quo and undo the expanding charter school choices for young Mainers.

Knowledge is power. The best education for the child is crucial for a lifetime of happiness, success, and health. Education should be about the kids, not the adults. Let’s keep moving down the path of more learning approaches and environments for Maine students. The new and growing charter school option is a step in the right direction.

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About the Author

Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit BrucePoliquin.net for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.

Follow Bruce on Facebook (facebook.com/BrucePoliquin) and Twitter @BrucePoliquin.

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