Yes On 3 Reply to Gov. Baldacci’s Email

The following is Yes On 3’s reply to Gov. Baldacci’s recent email urging Democrats to vote to uphold school consolidation.
Stonington-  Repeal of the school consolidation law (question 3 on the ballot) will not cost Maine taxpayers one cent. There is significant information which suggests that there is no net cost savings to school consolidation.
Gov. John Baldacci is making incorrect claims about the cost of repealing his failed school consolidation mandate.  He is trying to confuse voters by saying the $37 million which was cut from state aid to schools as part of the school consolidation law is really savings.  “Even his own staff knows that is not correct,” said Skip Greenlaw, head of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, which collected 61,193 signatures needed to put repeal on the Nov. 3 ballot.  “Basically, the governor needed to cut $37 million in expenditures to balance his budget last year,” Greenlaw said. “Now he’s trying to influence the outcome of the referendum vote by rewriting history.”  The reality is that by voting Yes on question 3 to repeal consolidation, Mainers will save money now and in the future.  Voters in 125 communities understood the issue of costs and savings when they rejected the mandate despite the threat of penalties that are scheduled to go into effect next year.  Consolidation in most areas of the state cost more than it saves.

Here are the facts:

-Among the 26 new districts that did form under the consolidation mandate, there has been an unexpected shift onto
communities, with property tax rates going up by 25 to 30 percent in some areas.  Towns that are getting hit by tax hikes want out, but there is no escape hatch in the law.

-The largest hidden cost in the law is the requirement that teacher contracts be merged, which will lead to a leveling up of pay scales.  Those merged contracts will cost some communities a half a million dollars or more each year in increased teacher costs.

-The greatest missed opportunity for cost savings is the law does not recognize regional cooperatives as a legal alternative to mandated consolidation, even though these could apply to all school districts, regardless of size.

-The current mandate actually exempts 65 districts, comprising 55 percent of the students in Maine- the same regions where the majority of school funding is spent.  Governor Baldacci also claims that 85 percent of Maine students are now served by the reorganized districts.  This is patently untrue.  The law has managed to consolidate enough districts to serve 27 percent of our students.

“Why aren’t we encouraging all districts to work together on collaborations that make sense for the cities and towns involved instead of trying to perpetuate failed legislation?” Greenlaw asked.  The state has spent more than $4 million to try and enforce the mandate, but Baldacci’s own commissioner of education acknowledges that it is too soon to quantify whether any money has been saved.

Baldacci made his claim about savings (otherwise known as reduction in state aid) in a letter paid for by the Maine Democratic Party that was sent out on Wednesday, Oct 14 and emailed to enrolled democrats in the state.  Greenlaw said he was personally disappointed that the governor had decided to take his case only to Democrats and not to all Maine taxpayers.  “The letter to Democrats suggest that he wants to rally his political base to defeat Question 3.  Educational matters have never been a partisan issue in Maine, and I believe that the governor has done a great disservice to our children and all Maine residents by trying to make this a partisan issue.  Why is he so wed to this failed law when there are so many other pressing issues facing the state?” Greenlaw asked.

Greenlaw invited the governor to participate in a public debate on the repeal of the school consolidation law, but his office declined.   “I or a member of the coalition will be more than happy to debate Governor Baldacci or Education
Commissioner Gendron if they change their mind”, Greenlaw said.  “It’s time to clear the air about how much this mandate already had cost taxpayers in the state.”

“The prudent choice is to repeal the school consolidation law by voting YES on Question 3.  Repeal will cost Maine taxpayers nothing; consolidation may cost Maine taxpayers much more in the long run,” Greenlaw concluded.

One Response

  1. […] Read Yes On 3’s reply to Governor Baldacci here. […]

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