“Sign” for Fairness…..

petition2Though Maine is, technically, a local-control state, State policymakers nonetheless wield a tremendous amount of influence over local education. All too often, local school Boards treat decisions at the State level as acts of nature; beyond their control, and fail to show significant engagement.  Here is an opportunity for you to bring about a review of State funding practices that have defied local logic for too long.

“…In theory, one would think that the funding is split fairly evenly, with a larger portion going to school districts in greater need. Yet, when one looks at the way state funding is disbursed you see that that is not always the case….”

Change.org Petition for EPS Equity

Here is a statement by the petition’s author:

May 11, 2015 — My name is Kirsten Cronin, and I started the petition being discussed here. I am a mother of 3 children and a homeowner, I do not work in the school system or in politics. I do not proclaim to be a math whiz, nor to have all the answers.

Last year I was asked to be on a subcommittee of our local school board to review some of our options to create a better system in our RSU. Utilizing ONLY information provided by the state on their Department of Education Data Warehouse, we began to see some trends in the EPS funding formula that did not make sense, to us. These same concerns had been raised by a few of our school board members in the past. As a result, once our subcommittee was finished, I decided to look into it further. Our funding formula is very confusing. It is 6 pages long for each district. The line by line explanation is 24 pages long.

Frankly, I could not wrap my mind around all of the different percentages and calculations to better understand the way the formula works. That in and of itself seems to be a problem. Before submitting my petition on Change.org, I met with my superintendent and business manager to make sure I was not completely off the mark.
The statements in comments are true. Average Household Income and Cost of Living is not included. The state instead uses: “The Regional Adjustment for Salaries, Benefits, & Substitutes is necessary due to the variations in Income Levels and Housing Costs throughout the State of Maine.” [page 7http://www.maine.gov/education/data/eps/ED279linebyline.pdf]. The way this is calculated is not the same as the Average Household Income or Cost of Living. Why not? I agree that it is important to make sure teachers can afford to live in the area that they teach, but what about everyone else? When the average is so much less than the teachers are we being equitable?
On property tax and income, one person states “income is not relevant to the amount towns can pay toward education.” True, according the to the states formula it is not, but shouldn’t it be? In the example I used in the petition Yarmouth has a property value of $14.5 billion and RSU13 of $2 billion. So, in theory, because Yarmouth has a higher property value they can afford to pay more and yet, they pay less per student.
I am sorry that I can not comment on the “donor” towns, as I’m not sure exactly what is meant by that.
Again, I don’t have the answers, nor am I claiming to. The bottom line is the formula needs to be reviewed in order to ensure equality. The current formula was put into practice in 2005 and there have been numerous calls in the past to have it reviewed. If you would like more information regarding the formula and studies please feel free to reviewhttp://www2.umaine.edu/mepri/sites/default/files/EPS2011.pdf, by David Silvernail, Co-Director of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute in January 2011. Or http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2709, by The Rural School and Community Trust and finallyhttp://www.falmouthschools.org/File/Supt/Review_of_EPS.pdf, by the Maine School Management Association.

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