Governor defends state education spending plan

Gov. Paul LePage is defending his education funding in response to harsh criticism by teachers and school administrators.

LePage said Tuesday that his two-year budget provides about $84 million more in state funding to schools than the education budget when he took office. He said that decreases in education funding result from the loss of one-time federal stimulus money, not from his proposed budget.

The critics warned legislators Monday about school budget cuts, teacher layoffs and crowded classrooms because of budget cuts.

Dick Durost of the Maine Principals’ Association told lawmakers that shifting retirement costs to the local schools, combined with the end of revenue-sharing to local communities, put local taxpayers “in a no-win situation” of either raising taxes or cutting education programs.


Maine’s university tuition among region’s lowest

A new report from the New England Board of Higher Education says Maine’s public four-year universities have the second-lowest in-state tuition and fee rates in New England.

The board’s report looks at tuition and fee rates at New England public college and universities from the 2007-08 to the current school year.

According to the report, Maine’s four-year schools charge an average of $8,725 a year for in-state tuition and fees. Only Connecticut’s in-state rates were lower among the six states.

Maine’s community colleges have the lowest average rates among two-year schools in the region, coming in at $3,287 this year.

In-state rates at Maine’s four-year universities have risen 29 percent in the past five years, while the two-year schools have seen in-state rates go up only 7 percent.


Three Mainers arrested in N.J. eel-poaching incident

Three Maine men have been arrested in New Jersey on charges that they illegally harvested more than 24,000 juvenile eels from a creek.

The men were arrested during the early morning of March 13, according to David Chanda of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

In a news release, Chanda identified the men as Robert L. Royce, 65, of Hope, Neal V. Kenney III, 53, of Thomaston and Dale B. Witham, 54, of Medomak.

Their net was set to catch glass eels — also known as elvers — which can fetch $2,000 a pound on the open market.

The men are charged with criminal trespassing, use of a fyke net without a license, use of an illegal fyke net and possession of eels in excess of the daily limit.