Maine PTA Backs Yes on 3

Yes on 3 has received an important endorsement.  The Maine Parent Teacher Association supports a Yes vote on Question 3 to repeal the current school consolidation law.  The MPTA cites reorganized districts unhappy need the right to leave their unions.  Ed Commissioner Gendron has stated that legislation would be quickly enacted to allow successful RSUs to remain together.  Give RSUs without the power of the larger exempt districts the equal right to choose RSUs with REAL savings under rules that work for everyone.  Vote Yes on 3.  Read the MPTA’s statement after the cut. Continue reading

No on 1 Calls for An End to Distortions and Attacks

Speaker Hannah Pingree and former Maine Attorney General Jim Tierney joined together at No on 1 today.  They spoke refuting the education claims made by Yes on 1, as well as other worries.  Speaker Pingree also defended the process by which AG Mills answered Ed Commissioner Susan Gendron’s questions about LD 1020 and education.  “The commissioner did the right thing by seeking an opinion from Maine’s top legal officer on these non-stop claims,” said Speaker Pingree.  “But when they didn’t get the answer they wanted, the Question 1 campaign attacked the messenger rather than finally acknowledging the inaccuracy and harm caused by this non-ending barrage.”  I admire Speaker Pingree and former AG Tierney for coming to the defense of same-sex marriage, but you can be sure that those opposed to same-sex marriage in Maine will say they too are just part of some bigger scheme.  Again, I appreciate their work, but misinformation and speculative “facts” aside, I would imagine most people have made up their minds at this point.  You are either are going to vote yes or no and are pretty solid on that decision.  I think that will be the last I’ve say on this issue, which I’ve decided literally as I type this.  You know how you are going to vote.  If I haven’t changed your mind yet, I wont.  I’ll still post releases from No on 1, but I think I’ve made my case.  See you at the polls. Continue reading

Yes On 3 Statement from Skip Greenlaw

Yes On 3’s Skip Greenlaw has provided The Maine View with his argument for repealing consolidation.  Mr. Greenlaw cites lack of actual savings, harsh penalties, and more in support of a consolidation repeal.  Please read his full statement after the cut.

Brian Hubbell did some calculations of the plans provided by the DOE and that were approved by the towns and savings were $1.6 million. She [Commissioner Gendron] said in June of 2007 that [school consolidation] would save $221 million over three years.  She was way off base in terms of his estimate and now she doesn’t even want to acknowledge it saves $1.6 million because in reality it will cost more than it will save.  Once the [unified] negotiated contracts come in it will be a big cost.

We are having a hard time communicating some of this.  I think we’ve made a pretty good argument.  I think we have a good argument to make.  A couple of arguments the opposition is making is that repeal will cost money.  It will cost nothing if [consolidation] is repealed.  There seemto be some people who think there is a connection between $36.5 million and what has been saved from consolidation.  That is not true.  There was a $36.5 million reduction in educational subsidy in 2008-2009 that was connected to consolidation, but had nothing to do with any cost savings.  It was strictly a reduction.  The Commissioner again has said if consolidation were repealed they would need to add a couple lines in an appropriations act to assure that the reduction is still continued.  So repeal isn’t going to cost anything, which is what the opposition is trying to say.

Another thing the opposition is trying to say is that if these towns that have consolidated want to continue that the repeal will obliterate that.  Our organization has never said that we’re opposed to all consolidation.  We said that we were opposed to mandatory consolidation.  There are some consolidation efforts that have taken place that may be OK,  although I am beginning to think there are more consolidated units that are unhappy.  I just got an email from someone in the Belfast/Stockton Springs area and I just found out last night about people in the Sheepscot River area who are very unhappy with this.  So there may be a lot of these consolidated units that may come apart if they have the opportunity to.  For the ones that want to stay together that’s fine.  We support the idea that all the legislature has to do is basically write two sentences in the law that any unit consolidated under the RSU laws will now become an SAD and any unit consolidated under the AOS statutes will now become a school UNION.  The burden for consolidation is all on the small school systems of the state.

There are two things I agree with the Governor about.  The state cannot maintain this level of education funding.  Of course they’ve had to cut back because of the recession.  The vote that took place in June of 2004 where people voted to go to 55% was ill-advised.  It has basically bankrupted the state.  I don’t think the state can ever get to 55%, as desireable as that may be.  The money isn’t there and I think it has caused a lot of money problems all across state government, although the Governor and legislature worked very hard to get there.  I think that is the genesis of this whole problem.  I agree that the government cannot maintain this level of funding.

I also agree with the Governor that there has been a significant decline in enrollment over the past few years and probably will continue.  We certainly have had an enrollment decline where I live.  We’ve gone from 550 to 379 or something like that.  I really question whether or not the decrease needs to come at central office administration or, as what has taken place, a decrease in teaching positions.  I don’t know at what point the reduction of students means that we combine two school districts and still have them function.  I know that we have reduced the number of teachers in the past few years as enrollment has dropped.

I think the assumption of what he [Governor Baldacci] is after is incorrect.  I think the whole bill wasn’t well thought out.  They had to go back and amend it.

Initially the bill was enacted in June of 2007.  They wanted consolidation done by December 1st of 2007.  There was only one unit that wasn’t an island that had complied.  They had to go back and amend the law to give districts another whole year.  There are units they hold up as a standard of saving money around Bath and Aroostook, which is fine.  It took them five years to come to the conclusion they wanted to consolidate.  Let other units have the same type of time to work things out.

In the Machias area they voted against consolidation.  After they voted against consolidation the superintendent Scott Porter got all the towns together and they voted to go under his superintendency.  There are eleven towns under his administration.  Four do not have any tuition students.  So I called and asked them why they voted to do this after they voted against consolidation.  Superintendent Porter said to me that he didn’t recommend consolidating because the DOE would not break out the educational subsidies to the various units.  They would just send one check for the whole eleven towns and that was it.  The DOE has not been very helpful in this whole thing.  Many legislators who thought this was a good idea now agree that the thing is a disaster.

There are a lot of people that understand that consolidation has not worked well.  How would you feel if in your community the legislature told you that you had to do something and that if you didn’t do it the way they said it you would get fined?   That’s not a very good feeling for anybody.  That’s what happened to maybe 135 towns.  If this law doesn’t get repealed they are going to be fined $5 million dollars for voting their conscience.  People have looked at these plans and decided the plans cost more than they save.  They are willing to take the penalty even if it will mean less subsidy.  I think those are people with a lot of courage.

I sometimes wonder why the Commissioner said she would not be an advocate for this.  Why all of a sudden after advocating this for two years has she stopped now?  I don’t know if they have backed away because they realize this law has lots of problems and they don’t want to get involved?  It seems to me they were they ones that spoke about it, they ought to be able to come out and defend it.

Repeal School Consolidation NOW

Numbers don’t say much by themselves. People can take a set of numbers and tell a story. Those who want to keep the current school consolidation law want to tell you a story. They want to tell you consolidation is working. 85% of Maine students are in districts already in compliance with consolidation law. A repeal of consolidation law will cost taxpayers $37 million every year, supporters say. Consolidation supporters want to construct a story around those numbers to scare you into believing a repeal will cause more programs to be slashed. When you look at the truth behind their we find their story is flawed.  School consolidation has not worked and must be repealed. Continue reading

Should Maine Cut School Days to Cut Costs?

Maine is in a budget crunch. That isn’t news to anyone, including educators. Education takes the biggest slice of the pie (40% of the state budget), so it is sure to face cuts.  That isn’t news either.  With a $66 million budget gap on their minds, lawmakers gathered yesterday to discuss what cuts could be made to make ends meet.  “In all likelihood, we need to be prepared to bear a portion of the revenue shortfall,” said Education Commissioner Sue Gendron.  “I was clear with the superintendents — I don’t know how much that is, and that I’ve not been given direction as to what the target is.” One suggestion to cut costs has been school shutdown days.  Continue reading