Video Conferencing a Boon to Maine Students

(Cross Posted @ Augusta Insider)

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree secured $473,000 for developing video conferencing in Maine schools.  12 vocational schools and technical centers in 11 counties will receive part of the grant.  The video conferencing technology allows a class to be broadcast to anyone over the network.  This broadcast is not one way.  The instructor can see and hear every classroom tapped in.  In a rural state like Maine, the advantages of this technology become apparent quickly. Continue reading


Setting The Record Straight On Question 3

From Yes on 3

Why Maine should vote YES to Repeal the School Consolidation Law

Repealing the law will not cost Maine any money. There was a $36 million reduction in the state budget for education. That money was cut from schools last year and it’s not coming back to the classroom or going anywhere else.

55% of Maine students are in 66 school districts that are unaffected by this law. They are exempt from consolidating because of size, geography, or other special exemptions granted by the DoE. Continue reading

Interview ME Gov Candidate Eliot Cutler (I)

The Maine View has interview gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.  Mr. Cutler is running as an independent.  We discussed his view on education, the economy, Dirigo health care, and more.  Please read out full interview after the cut.  See more interviews with Maine 2010 gubernatorial candidates at the Augusta Insider. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

AG Mills Debunks Education And LD 1020 Myths

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has just released her assessment of how LD 1020 (the same-sex marriage law) will impact Maine public school curricula.  AG Mills has gone over Maine laws related to education with a fine toothed comb looking if they have even the slightest mention of teaching about marriage of any sort in public schools.  It should be no surprise that her search turned up nothing.  So why should we believe that same-sex marriage will suddenly be forced upon our children in public school?  We shouldn’t.  Continue reading

Charter School Battle Reignites

Several groups are seeking to make Maine the 40th state to allow charter schools.  The groups, including the Maine Association of Charter Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, will meet this Wednesday the 14th in Augusta.  The groups seek to inform Mainers about the benefits of charter schools in combating dropout rates, the subject of a recent forum in Orono, low achievement, and more.  Matthew Stone reported that the forum comes as another battle over allowing charter schools in Maine is about to heat up.

Advocates of charter schools see the institutions as a way to diversify the learning environment and bring more advantages to Maine students.  “We’re just not competitive if we’re not giving students and parents and educators the option for charter schools,” said Roger Brainerd, executive director of the MACS. “It’s not the answer to everything. It’s just another tool.”  Charter schools have also been cite many times as a key component to receiving Federal “Race to the Top” funding.

The president of the Maine Education Association teacher’s union, Chris Galgay, seemed downright offended at the assertion that Maine needs charter schools.  Galgay believes that supporters of charter schools are attacking the hard work done in public schools.  He also accused charter schools of cherry-picking students to get only the best of the best.  Galgay also wondered where the funding would come from for charter schools, assuming funds would be robbed from public education to pay for them.

Chris Galgay is mistaken about a few things.  Supporting charter schools is not equivalent to attacking the hard work done by public school educators.  If  you want to provide another schooling option it does not mean you necessarily believe public schools have failed.  There are some great public schools in this state and some excellent teachers.  I have had the privileged to know many of those teachers.  I also have known some who were constrained by what they could or could not do in the public setting.  The charter setting could have nurtured these teachers and helped them grow if they choose to be there.  Also, charters can specialize in ways that public schools cannot.  You could have schools focused on the arts, science, mechanical trades, you name it.  Curriculum restraints dictate what must be taught within a given school year.  This is not a condemnation of that system.  Some thrive in the public school environment, while others may do better in a charter setting.  Encouraging charter schools in Maine is not an attack on the current public education system.  This is a supplement to make Maine’s education system richer.

Some charter schools do cherry-pick their students and are elitist corporate entities.  If Mr. Galgay had read the charter school bill (LD 1438 pdf warning) he would know Maine legislators had foreseen this.  They included measures in the bill that established oversight of charter schools by local and state school boards, or by a Maine college or university that awards 4 year degrees.  These boards would have control over who would be allowed to begin a charter schools and function as review boards for a charter schools continued existence.  Also if there are more students applying then there are spots for in a charter school students will be chosen in a random lottery.  The so called skimming that Galgay fears would have been clearly mitigated by the smart thinking of Maine’s legislators.

The funding issue Galgay speaks of is also false.  I spoke with Stephen Bowen of the Maine Heritage Policy Institute a few months ago on charter schools.  I asked Mr. Bowen directly if charter schools would draw funding from an already tight education budget or increase the tax burden on Maine communities.  Here is what he had to say:

Under the provisions of LD 1438, school districts were to pay charter schools a per-pupil amount equal to what the state’s Essential Programs and Services funding model says should be spent per student. The vast majority of districts in Maine, 88% to be exact, are spending well above what the formula says they should, which means that spending the state-calculated per-pupil rate would save the district money.

For instance, if a school district is currently spending $500 per child more than the state’s funding formula says it should, sending each child to a charter school at the state’s rate, as under LD 1438, would save the district $500 per child.

Furthermore, taxpayers do not fund construction or capital costs for charter public schools. Charter public schools have to provide for buildings and so forth on their own, through private donations and the like. The savings to taxpayers on capital costs alone would be huge.

Again, Mr. Galgay’s fears are unfounded.

There have been a lot of stories on the success of charter schools.  There have been good and bad charters just as there are good and bad public schools.  Charter schools are not a magic potion to solve our education ills, but because not every charter schools is phenomenal should we reject them outright?  By that logic we ought to reject public school and as well.  Why deny Maine students and educators another tool?  Charter schools, especially virtual charters, can be the jump start the Maine education system needs.  It is not the end of the public school system by any means.   We must evolve and adapt to the changing world and education climate around us.  The future of Maine’s youth and Maine’s economy depends on our evolution.  Charter schools are part of an evolution.  We can’t be left behind.

A Blue Hill Resident on School Consolidation

Robert Webster of Blue Hill posted this comment earlier today on a piece featuring a statement from Rep. Seth Berry on school consolidation.  Mr. Webster has given his statement as to why the school consolidation law should be repealed.  You can read Mr. Webster’s full statement after the cut.

The consolidation law should be repealed. A “yes” vote on Question #3 will restore fairness to the organization of school systems in Maine. Mandated consolidation does not work for rural areas. People throughout Maine should recognize and honor the votes of over 200 communities that rejected consolidation. Large school systems will not meet the needs of eastern and northern Maine. Continue reading