MSMA: Charters voted down, penalties delayed

Maine School Management Association

June 9, 2009

Charters voted down, penalties delayed

The Legislature Tuesday gave the necessary two-thirds support to pass a proposal that delays penalties for those that did not vote to consolidate – a bill that now will go to the governor’s desk for his signature.

On Monday the Senate, in a 20-to-14 vote, killed a bill that would have allowed charter schools in Maine.

That leaves one last major piece of education legislation on the Legislature’s agenda – a citizen proposed repeal of the school consolidation law. It will be voted on sometime this week since the Legislature is aiming to adjourn on Friday.

The penalty delay gives school units that did not vote to form a consolidated district one more year to find partners without being penalized. It needed a two-thirds vote so as not to be a competing measure with the citizen proposed repeal bill. The Senate vote was 31-to-3 and the House vote was 110-to-36.

Total repeal of the school consolidation law passed the Senate last week 19-to-16, but was narrowly defeated in the House 72-to-70. If it does pass both bodies in the second-round of voting, it is likely Gov. John Baldacci will veto it. If he does, it will go on the ballot in November.

Both Senate President Libby Mitchell and House Speaker Hannah Pingree voted in favor of repeal in the first round of voting.


Charter defeat

The charter school bill was killed in the Senate on Monday, after the Senate refused to change its position against it. The House last week voted narrowly in support of charters, putting the two legislative bodies at odds over the proposal.

Sen. Justin Alfond, Senate chair of the Education Committee, spoke against charters, saying they were designed for urban areas and would take money away from the public school system at a time when state aid is plummeting.

“In 2011, there’s going to be $60 million less for schools. Now we’re going to add charters?” Alfond said.

He warned that while the federal government is promising money to help start charter schools, that money eventually will go away.

“After the monies have gone away, communities that create charters have to keep up their infrastructure,” Alfond said.

Sen. Carol Weston, R-Waldo, a strong proponent of charter schools, said President Obama’s secretary of education believes charter schools are part of needed innovation for public schools.

“If Maine stepped forward,” and approved charter schools, Weston said, it would send the right message to Washington, D.C., in terms of making the state eligible for innovation funding.