Yes On 3 Asks Maine to Start Over

The Yes on 3 campaign to repeal school consolidation believes that the “experiment” is not working.  Political manipulation have allowed some districts to remain exempt while others are threatened Yes on 3 says.  School consolidation, they say, is too rigid, has saved no money, and must be repealed so that a better plan can be put in place.  Read the most recent statement from Yes on 3 after the cut.

The coalition backing repeal of the school consolidation law on the Nov. 3 ballot is refuting claims by the Baldacci administration that the mandate is working, releasing numbers showing it is a failed experiment that has been politically manipulated to let some school districts off the hook while threatening others with $5 million in penalties.

On its new website — ­www.repealconsolidation.com — that went live Oct. 1, the Maine Coalition to Save Schools used the Department of Education’s own data to show the law has not worked, is too rigid and unfair and hasn’t saved the kind of money that was promised.

Despite a goal of reducing Maine’s 290 districts to 80 by July 1 of this year, 218 remain. The state says it cannot quantify any savings so far as a result of consolidation, but has spent more than $4 million to try and enforce it. At the same time, property taxpayers in merged districts are seeing their tax rates go up – in one instance by 25 percent,” the coalition wrote.

Using the DOE’s latest update on consolidation efforts, an analysis shows there  are 66 districts, representing 55 percent of the state’s enrollment, that were not forced to consolidate because of size, location or other special dispensations granted by the department or the Legislature.

“Yet citizens in the more than 100 districts that were ordered to consolidate, but voted against it, are being threatened with $5 million in penalties simply for exercising their democratic rights,” the coalition says. And those districts are in some of the state’s poorest counties.

“The state told people upfront they would be penalized if they didn’t vote for consolidation and that’s just not right in a democracy,” said Skip Greenlaw, head of the coalition. “Even with that threat hanging over their heads, 88,916 voters said no to the mandate because they thought it was a bad idea for their communities and their schools.”

The law is also too rigid, he said.

There is no way for a town to get out of a regional district after it joins one, and the law does not recognize voluntary cooperation among districts as a legal alternative to forced consolidation – cooperatives that could apply to any district in the state regardless of size or location.

“We need to repeal this law and start working on something that makes sense for everybody. Everyone knows we have to find efficiencies and cut costs, but forced consolidation isn’t working,” Greenlaw said.

The Maine Coalition to Save Schools gathered the needed signatures to put repeal before the voters. It is Question 3 on the November ballot.

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