Media Archive

Task force issues recommendations on state education

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 5, February 04, 2004
Report includes incentives for consolidation, regionalization

AUGUSTA Maine school administrative districts may be offered incentives soon to consolidate and regionalize services, according to the final report of the Governor's Task Force on Increasing Efficiency and Equity in the Use of K-12 Education Resources.

The 34-page report was released Jan. 20.

The report submitted to Gov. John Baldacci will form the basis for legislation.

"I'll propose Regional Cooperatives and Regional School Districts, with state funding to encourage collaboration," Baldacci said in a prepared statement. "We must provide essential programs and services to students all over Maine. And we must provide these services in a cost-effective way to relieve property taxes."

The report poses 10 overall recommendations to the governor.

The seven-member task force cited declining student enrollments and the rising cost of education, in reasoning the need for change.

The task force recommended the creation of Regional Cooperatives (RCs), which would incorporate collaborative agreements among five or more school administrative units serving a total student population of 2,500 or more. Incentives for creating a RC, according to the report, would include state payment of the salary/benefits for one full-time regional staff member, state programs for providing regional training, state technical assistance in the development of the RC, along with consideration for state grants.

The task force also recommends the consolidation of school administrative units. According to the report, lower student enrollment correlates to increased per-pupil spending. The report offers the following incentives for creating Regional School Districts (RSDs): a general purpose aid bonus to be awarded annually for five years of 7.5 to 10 percent; state seed grants for the RSD development; additional state subsidy to support all-day kindergarten programs; and the state will assume a portion of the major capital construction debt incurred prior to July 1, 2004.

Where consolidation is not appropriate, the task force recommends districts examine and compare administrative costs to like-sized districts across the state.

Other recommendations from the task force include: support for the creation of the School Administrative Unit Study Group, established by the 120th Maine Legislature; creation of a cost-based program to increase the efficiency and equity in school transportation; changes in the identification and delivery of services for special needs students, and the adoption of a cost-based formula for funding special education; completion of a comprehensive study to determine the feasibility of transforming vocational education programs into 13 year programs.

The task force also supports the Maine State Board of Education's regionalization study requirements for new school construction.

The report also requests the Maine Department of Education invest sufficient resources to implement the recommendations.

The full report may be viewed on the state of Maine Web site at www.maine.gov.


NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.