MSMA: Legislation puts flexibility in school consolidation law

Maine School Management Association

 

Bulletin

Feb. 12, 2010

Legislation puts flexibility in school consolidation law

The Education Committee Thursday unanimously approved a draft plan that would put more flexibility in the school consolidation law allowing the Commissioner of Education to approve some regional proposals that fall below the current 1,200-student minimum.

Those that manage to create a plan that secures the commissioner’s approval and get it passed by their voters prior to July 1 would avoid penalties for this year. Those that come together prior to July 1, 2011, would avoid penalties for fiscal year 2012.

Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said it would not be simple to get an exemption from the current minimum, but possible “if they adhere to a rigorous process.”

There is no minimum number in the proposal, Commissioner Gendron said, to allow the department to deal with unique circumstances.

The committee also approved a proposal to allow municipalities to withdraw from existing Regional School Units (RSU) and Alternative Organizational Structures (AOS)  after they have been in one for three years. It also says districts would be out of compliance with the school consolidation law if they do not join another district within two years after withdrawal.

The language in the withdrawal portion of the proposal essentially mirrors statute that used to be in place for withdrawal from a School Administrative District (SAD).

Those proposals will be included in an omnibus bill, LD 570, “An Act to Improve the Laws Governing the Consolidation of School Administrative Units.”  The intention is to have the Legislature pass the bill by a two-thirds majority so it can go into effect immediately.

The bill represents a compromise between Commissioner Gendron  and a group of school districts largely from rural Maine looking for options  to allow them to conform to the school consolidation law.

The proposed language says those coming together under the more flexible rules for an AOS would have to create a plan for consistent policies, calendars and collective bargaining agreements, but there is no requirement to have a unified contract.

It also says the Department of Education would calculate state subsidy amounts separately for all members of an AOS.

The provision also would give school districts the local option of scheduling their school board elections so members of a regional board would take office on a common date.

 

Contact: Dale Douglass, executive director douglass@msmaweb.com

Victoria Wallack, communications director vwallack@msmaweb.com

Telephone: 207-622-3473 or 1-800-660-8484