Maine Lawmakers Wrestle With Consolidation Plan

By Laura Greifner — May 08, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

With a little more than a month to go in their legislative session, Maine lawmakers continue to wrangle over Gov. John E. Baldacci’s push to consolidate the state’s hundreds of local school districts and streamline their school administrations, with no clear agreement in sight.

The Democratic governor’s original plan, titled “Local Schools, Regional Support,” would have replaced the state’s 152 superintendents and 290 locally elected school boards with 26 central offices, each run by a superintendent, other administrators, and a 15-person regionally elected school board. (“Maine Governor Seeks Sweeping Consolidation of Districts,” Jan. 17, 2007.)

But that plan, which Gov. Baldacci said could save the state and local governments nearly $250 million in its first three years through increased efficiency, ran into fierce opposition, particularly from rural districts and from educators and administrators who feared their jobs would be lost.

Now, after hearing six alternative proposals, legislators are weighing a pair of plans that would result in far less consolidation than the governor had initially suggested. As of late last week, both were being considered and modified by a joint appropriations committee.

The alternatives stick to the principles of the governor’s original consolidation plan in that they aim to reduce unnecessary administration and maximize the use of resources in the classroom, said David W. Farmer, a spokesman for Gov. Baldacci’s office.

“The bottom line is, we have too many superintendents for the number of students we have,” Mr. Farmer said. “It’s just not a sustainable situation.”

In their first attempt at an alternative, members of a joint education committee came up with a proposal that still would have left the state with 100 to 120 school districts, said David Connerty-Marin, a spokesman for the state department of education.

‘Rural Caucus’ Proposal

A smaller, bipartisan working group has since come up with a somewhat stricter plan, which would require each district to have at least 2,500 students, with some exceptions for districts located on islands and in other geographically isolated areas. Districts also would be encouraged to collaborate on matters such as transportation or special education, Mr. Connerty-Marin said. That plan would go into effect in July 2008.

But last week, a small group of legislators calling themselves a “rural caucus” came up with their own plan, setting similar size limits in most areas and putting even more emphasis on collaboration between districts to achieve cost savings. That plan would not go into effect until July 2009 and would allow areas to opt out, though at the risk of losing federal education aid.

Although the state education department does not have a position on either plan, Mr. Connerty-Marin called the small working group’s plan “encouraging, in terms of administrative efficiency,” but added that it was not yet final.

He said the department has some concerns, however, about “the achievability of savings and the sustainability at the local level” of the rural-caucus plan.

Mr. Connerty-Marin also said the education department would be willing to work with local districts if and when they are called on to choose partners under a consolidation plan.

“With very few exceptions, the likely partners already make sense,” he said.

Complicating the debate is the potential loss of federal funding as a result of consolidation, according to Mary Kusler, the assistant director of government relations for the American Association of School Administrators, in Arlington, Va.

Last year, 115 districts in Maine collected $1.7 million in grants to districts with fewer than 600 students under the federal Rural Education Achievement Program. Under a consolidation plan, those districts would find themselves too large to be eligible, Ms. Kusler said.

“There’s such a vagueness with what is happening right now at the state level,” she said.

As of late last week, both versions of the consolidation plan were being considered and modified at the appropriations committee level.

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2007 edition of Education Week as Maine Lawmakers Wrestle With Consolidation Plan


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States This State Set Up a Program to Reduce Chronic Absences. It Worked
A program in Connecticut sent school employees to families' homes to address absenteeism's root causes.
4 min read
Rebecca Grabill/E+
Rebecca Grabill/E+
States The Republican Fight Against 'Critical Race Theory' Continues As Arkansas Enacts New Ban
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order this week banning “indoctrination and critical race theory” in schools.
3 min read
Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders is introduced with husband Bryan, and children Scarlett, George, and Huck prior to taking the oath of the office on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark.
Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders prepares to take the oath of office, with her husband and children by her side, on the steps of the state capitol in Little Rock on Jan. 10.
Will Newton/AP
States State Ed. Systems Aren't Equipped to Address Schools' Big Challenges
A new report outlines a dire situation for state education agencies.
4 min read
Close-up image of pencils on a blueprint.
States Colorado Voters Say Yes to Universal Free School Meals. Will Other States Follow?
Universal free school meal policies may be gaining momentum among states now that federal funding has lapsed.
2 min read
Image of students in line for a school meal.
Lisa Rathke/AP