April 2, 2013

Maine charter school bills called 'death by cuts'

Three proposals would separate funding from public schools; critics are not happy with the plans.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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When school districts lose funding to charter schools, they don’t save any money by not having to teach those children; they have the same number of teachers and classrooms – and less funding.

“The loss of 50 students (in RSU 54) did not decrease our operating costs,” said Jennifer Poirier, the mother of three children in the district. “As a parent, I worry about the opportunities being taken away from my children. ... With larger class sizes, will they receive the individual attention that they need?”

“We need to be shoring up existing schools, not chipping away at them,” MacDonald said. “There is no reason to be rushing to take money away from public schools. They are doing their job.”

MacDonald said he plans to change his proposal so that it would not take effect until 2015-16, to give charter schools time to plan for a change in funding.

Earlier Monday, Gov. Paul LePage made a brief appearance at a pro-charter school press conference, reiterating his longstanding support for the schools.

Several speakers said the legislation that established charter schools, and their funding, was thoughtfully crafted, “sensible” and received bipartisan support.

“To gut the law now, before these schools have even had a chance to succeed or fail – or in some cases even open – is unfair and poor public policy,” said Roger Brainerd, executive director of the Maine Association for Charter Schools.

The schools are given five-year charters, which must be renewed.

Joe Grady, chairman of Harpswell Coastal Academy, said his organization had to meet rigorous standards before the Maine Charter School Commission to be approved to open this fall.

“So I was disappointed and a bit alarmed that there was so much action up here,” said Grady. “I feel like we have a great law on the books.”
Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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