Maine is increasing K-12 education funding. Some schools won’t get much help.

Publish Date : 2021-06-21

Maine is increasing K-12 education funding. Some schools won’t get much help.

It means little in this small peninsula town crossed by U.S. Route 1.

Like many other communities, West Bath’s property values are driven up by proximity to the ocean. But this is not the gold coast. The town has a median household income of nearly $70,000, higher than the rest of Sagadahoc County but still making for a “blue collar” town where taxes are hard for many to pay, said Keith Hinds, the town’s school board chair.

Gov. Janet Mills’ updated two-year budget proposal includes $187 million to increase the state’s spending on public education to the 55 percent threshold. But West Bath and roughly 100 other cities and towns will not see an increase because they are so-called “minimum receivers” — those with such high property values that they do not qualify for that pool of state aid.

“There’s just not an ounce of fat left in our budget,” Hinds said the day after voters approved a new $3.9 million school budget. “I’m sure anybody who talks about budgets is going to say that, but we literally had conversations this budget cycle about $100 expenditure lines.”

Additional funding will mean millions more for many school districts in Maine, which falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to K-12 education funding, but not every district will be able to access it instantly and just eight districts will be lifted out of minimum receiver status. It highlights the challenges of equitably funding public education through highly variable property taxes. The funding formula should be revisited as school needs shift, advocates say.

The historic increase is poised to cruise through the Maine Legislature after dismal pandemic revenue projections were buoyed by unprecedented federal aid, resulting in the state revising estimates up by $940 million over two years. Once passed, the budget will live up to the 2004  referendum requiring a level of funding first promised by lawmakers 20 years earlier.

It has been trumpeted by the Mills administration as a form of property tax relief, as increasing the state share would theoretically shift burden away from the property tax. All school districts usually receive some state money regardless of minimum receiver status, either through subsidies for debt service, special education or allocations for lower-income students.

Maine’s funding formula was revised in 2006 with the aim of being more equitable, said Paula Gravelle, school finance manager for the Department of Education. Her main job is to determine how much state money schools get, which is roughly determined by how many low-income students the district serves, its staffing levels and its ability to pay for basic services.

“We want to make sure it gets to those who really need it the most,” she said.

The eight districts that will no longer be minimum receivers include Scarborough and the Bethel-based Regional School Unit 44, but most of them are in smaller towns. They include Hancock and Castine all the way down to Winterville and Topsfield. The latter two have just just over 200 residents in Aroostook and Washington counties, respectively. They will lose the status under the increase because education costs will rise higher than state-calculated valuations.

The increase would be a major boon to many districts, according to Department of Education data. Portland would get $6.2 million more in state aid. Bangor would get $1.7 million. But it is uneven. The Pleasant Point school district — one of three Maine tribal school districts that gets 99 percent of funding from the state — would get just $1,200 more.

The timing is proving to be a challenge. The Legislature will not take up a new budget until late June at the earliest. Municipalities and school districts typically approve budgets in March or June, so the money may not be accessible for many until next year.

In the Kennebec County town of Fayette, property taxes are boosted by two lakes, but many work at the paper mill in nearby Jay. It now gets 10 percent of its funding from the state, a sum that Nancy Cronin, a school board member, described as “quite low.”

She said the news of a possible increase in education funding was hopeful, but that the state should not stop there. Cronin believes the state should institute a “floor” of investment in each child where it either commits a certain percentage of funding or a set amount per child.

“Every child should have an investment in their education,” she said.

There is still “discomfort” around how schools are funded, said Steven Bailey, the executive director of the Maine School Management Association, which represents administrators and school boards. He said the state could next explore more funding for renovation and capital funds, plus new equipment for expensive career and technical programs.

Post-pandemic burdens may also look different. Mark Hurvitt, the superintendent in five towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula, said the district kept its budget largely flat this year while putting a full-time nurse in each of its schools to monitor children, a move that was critical to keeping students in school full-time.

While more state funding would be nice, he said his district is frugal and more money would not change much.

“We’re used to not getting much money from the state and we’re going to continue to act accordingly,” Hurvitt said.

Education is life

Today the World is becoming a superficial place. Our time appoints the absurd, making social networks as a real-world by a considerable part of the younger generations.

It is a virtual reality, more precise than high-definition video games, more addictive and harmful to the mind and the body.

This fake reality indeed kills the neurons converting people into zombies led by a leader of unknown appearance.

Ignorance acts as the lock, and manipulation working as the key entering every mind. Then, it hacks and promotes war even over the most absurd topic that any influencer shares in a post.

The social network profile becomes an epicentre of empty universes, universes that conflict with the real-life, where, as in the war, leads to the destruction of entire generations.

Using actualized tools, but the same indoctrination mechanisms used in the world wars. Again, the end justifies it, annulling individuals’ conscience and making them members of the social mass.

Even though each social profile is seemingly unique, there is no perspective on what life is in its essence. The network is a game that only favours some private interests.

We know the truth: countries born from interests, wars arise, passions move. Interests motivate greed. Greed sooner or later destroys life. Life, which, without a doubt, is the only thing we have.

Blood wars are no longer an option in our time across the rich countries. New wars are too expensive and risky.

Wars are now abstract. Wars involve factual powers whose shadow is unknown and whose attacks are directed to control the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial.

The end of empires has never come. In our time, empires are mainly commercial, managing everything that allowed us to be free.

Now empires dictate what to be and how to be.

Indeed, commercial or blood, all war implies the destruction of every trace that makes us human.

Every war, directly and indirectly, destroys our soul and breaks the only thing we take when we leave.

War destroys what we have lived and what we will no longer discover for ceasing to be ourselves.

There are not strong leaders to help us. Corruption and secrets are always leaked by someone who is behind the scenes.

We are the unique leaders of our time; we are the bosses of our destiny.

We must not perish. Responding to Hamlet, the worthiest thing for the soul is to fight for our fortune, live our lives, and rebel against this wild sea of misery.

The only thing that saves us from interest, the only thing that separates us from greed, the only thing that allows us to see reality is education.

However, all education is written by the victors and not by the vanquished. Our salvation involves investigating, delving into every little remorse and lack of meaning of our multiple thoughts.

Education notebook: Area school districts set upcoming schedules

Dates and times: Two more area school districts set details Monday for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

Berryhill Public Schools approved its 2021-2022 calendar. As approved, classes will start on Aug. 18 and are scheduled to end on May 24. Three inclement weather days are built into the west Tulsa district’s calendar.

Meanwhile, the board at Union Public Schools voted to utilize the same bell schedule from the start of the 2020-2021 school year with six different start times among its campuses.

The elementary schools will be in session from 7:40 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Classes will run from 8:10 a.m. to 3:11 p.m. at Union High School and from 8:15 a.m. to 2:57 p.m. for the Union Freshman Academy.

The Eighth Grade Center will be in session from 9 a.m. to 3:44 p.m. Meanwhile, the Sixth and Seventh Grade Center will have separate bell times for its two grades, with the elder grade in class from 9:05 a.m. to 3:47 p.m. and the younger grade in class from 9:35 a.m. to 4:17 p.m.

The first day of classes for Union Public Schools is Aug. 18.

PTA prizes: The Oklahoma Parent-Teacher Association recently named the Broken Arrow PTA Council its Council of the Year and the Lynn Wood Elementary School PTA its Unit of the Year.

Shot clinic: In conjunction with the Muscogee Nation Department of Health, Sand Springs Public Schools is hosting a drive through COVID-19 vaccination clinic Tuesday at Charles Page High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for students, parents, district employees and their families.

Back in the cloud: The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s annual professional development conference starts Monday morning. Due to COVID-19, the three-day event will be held virtually again this year rather than as a cross-state road trip.

Board schedule: The school boards for Bartlesville, Catoosa, Owasso and Tulsa have regular meetings scheduled for Monday evening, while the state Board of Education is scheduled to meet Thursday morning.

TPS’ board of education also has a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Category :education

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