November 26, 2012

Federal funding cuts could ravage Maine schools

If Congress can't avert the fiscal cliff, school districts could see $17.5 million in cuts and hundreds of jobs lost in 2013.

By SUSAN MCMILLAN Kennebec Journal

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Eric Haley, Alternative Organization Structure 92 superintendent.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

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By the numbers

Some school districts receive more federal funding than others, but they all could suffer from an 8.2 percent cut to discretionary funding in the sequestration package. Here is this year’s funding for the four largest federal education programs in K-12 schools.

District Federal Dollars Per pupil
Waterville $1,567,283 $842.63
Augusta $1,915,738 $823.97
RSU 54 $2,158,645 $812.74
Portland $5,335,886 $771.97
RSU 49 $1,579,010 $677.98
Winslow $712,853 $555.61
RSU 11 $1,172,958 $554.33
RSU 2 $1,199,970 $532.61
RSU 18  $1,431,893 $484.57
Falmouth $482,900 $225.02

State average: $613.67 per pupil

The districts least reliant on federal money include affluent suburban communities in southern Maine and some smaller districts, in particular some of those on Mount Desert Island.

Falmouth School Department would be least affected. For the four largest programs, it will receive $482,900 this year -- 1.7 percent of the budget, or $225 per student.

Fayette's federal money makes up only about 4 percent of the school department's budget, so the per-pupil amount may be skewed upward by the small student count, AOS 92 Superintendent Gary Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said officials in AOS 97, which also includes Winthrop, have tried to spread Title I and other federal money among several qualified staff members to make it easier to absorb losses without cutting personnel.

Even so, he's concerned about possibly having to cut a teacher at a time when Winthrop Public Schools is actually gaining students. Rosenthal said he is not hopeful that Congress will either spare education funding this year or restore it in the foreseeable future.

"I don't mean to be negative, but I don't see a whole lot of change taking place in Washington," he said. "I don't think there's any restoration in sight. I know we're not going to move forward, but I just hope we can get back to where we are."

Susan McMillan -- 621-5645

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