April 8, 2013

Letters to the editor: Mayor seeks to disband charter schools

Baxter Academy remains in the news. They met with the Charter Commission to discuss the recent changes in management and their fiduciary duties in order to open their doors in September 2013.

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is using the uncertainty over Baxter Academy to try to undermine the progress of the Maine charter school movement, a reader says.

2012 File Photo/The Associated Press

In my opinion, it is clear that Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is taking advantage of the present situation in order to disband the charter school movement.

He has been opposed to charter schools since their introduction. He is unhappy with the current way in which charter schools are funded, which is through each public school district's budget. The average cost per pupil is $9,000 a year.

Brennan plans to seek $40,000 from the Portland Development Corp. to help launch his long-promised "Research Triangle" cluster of education, research and technology institutions.

But he said the new charter Baxter Academy for Technology and Science is not being looked at for participation in the collaborative. Rather, the mayor said, his Research Triangle, which will include the Portland Public Schools, further makes the new charter unnecessary.

Until that time though, it is evident, based on the continued public outcry, that charter schools are necessary to provide what the students are not being given, which is real-life, hands-on learning that relates directly to the world of technology and work. Possibly charter schools will cause public schools to rethink the standard fare that they are currently providing.

Rather than continue to throw stones, Brennan needs to stop and to be held accountable as to what he is doing, which is to slow down any momentum that Baxter Academy has attained in order to make sure that their doors do not open this fall.

I believe that this "David and Goliath" approach only hurts students, families and communities.

Robin Monahan


Arkansas spill bodes poorly for tar sands' Maine future

The devastating tar sands pipeline spill March 29 drove people from their homes in Arkansas near Lake Conway, a drinking water source. Residents await word on their homes while their neighborhood is seeing rescue efforts for oil-soaked ducks.

And there's more bad news on the cleanup costs. The pipeline company, ExxonMobil, does not have to pay cleanup costs! Why? Because this spill is not classified as "oil."

The spill is heavy crude bitumen; it is tar sands; it is what will travel the Keystone XL pipeline. But it is not defined as oil, according to a 30-year-old law. Companies are required to pay into a cleanup fund, but only for "oil," not for tar sands.

So companies transporting toxic tar sands are exempt from paying into the cleanup fund for spills that will certainly occur. Seems that leaves the mess for the pockets of the taxpayers.

Here in Maine, there's worry the Portland Pipe Line Corp. may use its Portland-to-Canada pipeline to bring tar sands from Canada to the Maine coast. On radio, an executive of Portland Pipe Line repeatedly called this stuff "oil" in spite of program comments that tar sands is very different.

Now we learn from the Arkansas spill that an oil transport company does not need to pay to clean up tar sands. Why? Because it's not "oil," even if Portland Pipe Line says it is.

Is this what Maine people and waters will face if tar sands flows from Canada to our coast on its way to somewhere else?

Jean Foss


Buffer zone will offer shield from anti-abortion 'gantlet'

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