AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Education said last week that it has received nearly two dozen proposals from 102 schools that want to launch new regional centers.

Maine’s shrinking, largely rural schools have been working to share resources with other schools for years. But Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration pushed lawmakers this year to create new incentives for such efforts.

The education department announced this month that it will be reviewing applications for nine to 12 new regional service centers.

The state would cover 100 percent of the costs of accounting, payroll and a student information system. State funding would also cover 55 percent of an executive director’s salary and benefits.

Lawmakers passed a two-year, roughly $7 billion budget that would gradually decrease state funding for school administration costs while aiming to increase funding for instruction.

Lawmakers decreased state funding for school system administration from $135 per pupil this school year to $92 per pupil in the 2018 school year and to $47 per pupil in 2019.


School districts that are part of regional service centers can receive an additional $46-per-pupil allocation for the regional service center next school year that increases to $94 in 2019.

Starting in 2020, Maine’s education commissioner would determine the per-pupil allocation.

In order to receive funding, a regional service center must provide certain categories of services, such as a regional special education director or regional transportation services for homeless youths.

The LePage administration stresses that the centers are voluntary, though schools that form or join the centers are eligible for additional funds.

The governor has long argued that the large, rural state has too many superintendents who are too costly and has fought to shift more costs to local school districts.

A statewide association representing superintendents has criticized cuts to administration funding and argued that LePage’s proposals face opposition from communities that want “visible and accessible” school superintendents.

Schools that join a regional center can continue to pay for a full-time or part-time superintendent, or they can choose to share a superintendent with other members of the center, according to the Department of Education.

There may be another option for schools looking to keep their superintendent: The department says the law doesn’t prohibit a school’s superintendent from serving as a regional center’s executive director.

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