April 11, 2013

LePage proposes $3 million school-oversight office

But the administration says it does not plan to take over failing schools, as mentioned in a document.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: School accountability

Should the state create an Office of School Accountability that would let it take over "failing schools"?

Yes

No

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The proposed Office of School Accountability, to be funded by a $3 million appropriation, is included in Gov. Paul LePage's two-year budget for the Department of Education.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Kilby-Chesley said Wednesday that there is concern that the school accountability effort will dovetail with the grading proposal and lead the state to take over schools and fire employees. The MEA hasn't yet taken a stance on the report card proposal.

"We don't know what the criteria is, we don't know if there's a rubric or some sort of chance to improve," she said. "All we've heard is that there's a report card.

"Obviously, it causes us some consternation when we don't know what our schools are going to be judged on," she said.

Connerty-Marin said the planned accountability office wouldn't "take over" struggling public schools. Instead, it would use state funds to assist schools that don't qualify for federal assistance under Title I, the program that puts money into economically disadvantaged school districts.

Connerty-Marin said the initiative wasn't originally intended to dovetail with the administration's grading proposal, which was drafted before the accountability office idea came to fruition. However, he said, the two proposals could ultimately support each other.

Kilby-Chesley said teachers are wary of the potential stigma associated with a grading system.

However, she said, teachers could support a plan that puts more state dollars into public education.

"If a school is struggling and it doesn't qualify for Title I funds, of course we would like to see more money go to that school," she said. "That's what we hope for every school."

Democratic lawmakers have criticized LePage's $6.3 billion state budget proposal for the next two years for flat-funding education while diverting money to other initiatives.

Kilby-Chesley said Wednesday that the governor's plan to provide more than $815 million in state aid to public schools in the year beginning July 1 is $109 million less than the amount allocated in 2008.

She said the budget is shortchanging public schools, especially when coupled with LePage's plan to shift 50 percent of teachers' retirement costs onto school districts.

"Put a few more dollars into the education budget," she said. "That would be a nice change, to see the budget improve and more money going to our schools."

The LePage administration counters that it has increased education funding while diverting money into efforts to reform the system.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

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Today's poll: School accountability

Should the state create an Office of School Accountability that would let it take over "failing schools"?

Yes

No

View Results