Maine Consolidations Top Legislative Actions
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 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.
Agreement on an overhaul of Maine’s administrative structure for education emerged as the major achievement of the six-month-long state legislative session that wrapped up late last month. Legislators approved the new law—a compromise version of a plan proposed in January by Gov. John E. Baldacci—that calls for paring the state’s 290 school districts down to about 80 through mergers and consolidations. The shake-up is projected to save Maine tens of millions of dollars each year in administrative costs. Voters will ultimately decide whether to support the mergers of their local districts. ("Maine Moving Ahead on School Consolidation Plan," June 20, 2007.)
In approving Maine’s two-year, $6.3 billion overall state budget, Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat, and lawmakers reached the goal of raising the state’s share of local education costs to 55 percent by fiscal 2009. The budget calls for roughly $2 billion in education spending, an increase of 17 percent over the previous two-year state budget.
The governor also signed legislation that creates a tax credit for graduates of Maine’s colleges and universities to combat the state’s “brain drain” of college-educated residents who seek higher salaries in other states.
Maine college graduates who remain in the state to work will be eligible for tax credits, capped at $2,100 annually, that are designed to make repaying their student loans more affordable. At the University of Maine in Orono, in-state tuition and fees for 12 credit hours for the coming fall semester will total about $3,500. The program starts in January and will apply only to new loans.
Vol. 26, Issue 43, Page 22