Greenlaw: Mainers need to repeal school consolidation for good of all

MAINERS NEED TO REPEAL SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION FOR GOOD OF ALL

Skip Greenlaw

Why should all Mainers care about voting Yes on Question 3 to repeal the school consolidation law? Because we have a long and proud history of caring about each other, whether we live in Kittery, Fort Kent, Jackman, Eastport or anywhere in between. As they say: "United we stand, divided we fall."

We all understand that our schools are the fabric which brings us together as a community regardless of size. A significant number of communities feel threatened by this law. Hopefully, we shall all come to their rescue to repeal the school consolidation law.

The following is a summary of the most important reasons why we must repeal the school consolidation law.

  • The law does not treat everyone the same. There are 65 districts, representing 55 percent of the state's enrollment, that were not forced to consolidate because of size, location or other special dispensations granted by the Department of Education. Yet more than 125 districts were ordered to face consolidation. Those districts that rejected consolidation are now facing $5 million in penalties.
  • Repealing the law will not cost any money, but keeping it on the books will.
  • A review of all available information reveals that there is no net cost savings to consolidation. In fact, many people believe that, when collective bargaining agreements are finalized, consolidation will cost more money that it saves.
  • Five Town CSD in the Camden area, for example, estimates its salary costs would go up by $420,000 if they forced to consolidate. In the Brewer area, the estimate is closer to $2 million. Why is the state trying to force districts to do the wrong thing for their taxpayers?
  • Loss of local control is just starting to hit home for those 26 new regions that were formed under the mandate, yet there is no way to get out of a consolidated district once you're in. In SAD 38 (Etna & Dixmont) that loss of control has meant the loss of school choice for high school students. In other communities, it has meant tax shifts that are forcing up property taxes by as much as 25 to 30 percent.
  • People throughout Maine should recognize and honor the votes of over 125 districts that rejected consolidation. Large school systems will not meet the needs of eastern and northern Maine.

Augusta never asked superintendents and school boards to find ways to reduce spending on our schools through cooperation. Instead, they enacted this mandatory law with the hope that it would save money. This law will not produce any savings and despite what the opponents of repeal say, Voting Yes on Question 3 will not cost any money. It will save money in the long run.

School districts will continue to work with the governor and legislature to accomplish the goal "of living within our means". However, it is unnecessary to destroy school governance in the process.

It is very important for all Maine voters to stand shoulder to shoulder with residents of Maine communities that are going to be penalized for voting their conscience and repeal this unacceptable law. Think for a minute how aggrieved you would feel if you lived in one of these communities. Please vote YES on Question 3 to repeal the school consolidation law. Then we can all return to the most important job of educating our children.

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Skip Greenlaw is chair of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools which collected 61,193 signatures to place the repeal of the school consolidation law on the ballot. Visit their website - repealconsolidation.com