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Published in Print: May 19, 2004, as Capitol Recap

Capitol Recap

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The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.


State to Raise Share
Of School Funding

Having passed its two-year budget last year, Maine’s legislature spent much of its 2004 session debating how to pick up a bigger share of education expenses.

In the end, lawmakers passed a plan that would increase the share of state funding for K-12 education to 55 percent by 2010. The state now pays about 43 percent of education costs, but residents are worried that the current formula is too dependent on local property taxes, which have risen in recent years.

Proponents of the move intended it to head off a competing proposal backed by the Maine Municipal Association that would force the state to pay 55 percent of education costs beginning next year. Residents will still go to the voting polls on June 8 to decide whether to approve that plan.

Gov. John Baldacci (D)

18 Democrats
17 Republicans
80 Democrats
67 Republicans
4 Independents
200,000 (K-12)

The association’s initiative was also on the ballot last November, but it competed against a similar proposal, and neither received a majority of votes. Since passing the legislative measure last month, legislative leaders and the municipal association have worked together to create a compromise plan for lawmakers to consider.

Also on the finance front, the legislature added $15 million to its $730 million K-12 education budget for fiscal 2005 as part of a supplemental appropriations bill. That is an increase of 2 percent.

The state also delayed, by one academic year, its requirements that students show proficiency in mathematics and English/language arts in order to receive a high school diploma. Students graduating in the 2007-08 school year will have to meet that requirement. Students already faced similar proficiency requirements in science, social studies, and health/physical education that same year.

With statewide enrollment expected to decline by as many as 12,000 students this coming fall, Gov. John Baldacci had encouraged the legislature to adopt a measure to give incentives to districts to find ways to use services such as health services at the regional level. The legislature debated, but did not pass, such a plan.

In other action, the legislature passed a measure to form a task force to study plans for a citizenship education curriculum.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 23, Issue 37, Page 25

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