Ed Committee work session, Thurs., 4/02/09

Work Session 4:00 p.m. or ASAP

  • LD 353 FY10 & FY11 Biennial Budget
  • Pt. GGG (MLTI "laptop" program)
  • Allocation of Penalties for "Non-conforming school units"
    (State subsidy under the GPA for Local Schools program)
  • MEPRI Road Map for EPS Study

[Reports and comments below]

The $6.8 million of penalty

The $6.8 million of penalty money that Jim Rier reported to the Committee last Thursday, now has been revised downward to $5.1 million.

However, the Commissioner has today given a stand-alone exemption to Wells-Ogunquit. So that leaves $4.8 million.

However the Commissioner also expects Kittery to be exempted and also that SAD 46/Harmony will form an approved AOS which will further reduce the penalties to $4.7 million.

If the Committee and legislature forgive the penalties for the 17 districts that were part of failed RSUs but individually voted to approve, then the total amount of penalties would be reduced to $3.7 million.

Estimated reorganization costs

The Commissioner reports that 13 of the 22 reorganized units have reported their estimated expenses related to reorganization and that they range from $20,000 to $200,000.

Therefore she is recommending that $3 million of the penalty money be redistributed to these units in some proportion to their respective size, number of consolidated central offices, and their proportion of state subsidy.

Remainders

This would leave $750,000 for units which still are working toward reorganization -- or maybe for distribution to teachers, a proposal made by Rep. Sutherland.

Formula for distribution of $3 million among reorganized units

25% ($750,000) by each of these factors

1) Number of central offices (number of systems merging)
2) Percent of state subsidy
3) Number of SAUs merging (ratio of total 52 merged units)
4) Total number of students

To reorganize 22 new units

...the DoE spent about $3.5 million.

Of which $1.2 million

...was spent on state-wide transportation bus-routing software.

Committee is uncomfortable....

...with this whole thing.

But there is also a tension that results from their holding up Appropriations and the resultant disbursement of stimulus funds statewide.

As the Department has already based the GPA allocations on the inclusion of penalties, there is here some of the same flavor of the initial inclusion of the reorganization provisions within the LD 499 biennium budget.

Add to that the unknown of the consequence of having removing the penalties being a competing measure to the repeal initiative, and you'll have some empathy with the Committee members.

Off road and into the gravel...

...Committee's energy is sapped, committee members are leaving, and no one has the will to deal with the laptop part of the budget.

Dr. Silvernail, who has already been waiting through several sessions for the Committee to make their recommendations on his MEPRI road map and plan for future work, once again will go home unheard.

The Committee has also requested that someone from the AG's office attend the beginning of tomorrow's work session to advise them on the pitfalls presented and represented by "competing measures"

Adjourned 6:04PM

Empathy ...

One has to think that if the Ed Committee of two years ago had put this much effort into writing the reorganization law in the first place, things might not have gotten as bad as they are now. Listening to concerns at that time was not a high priority*, so the current Committee now has to make up for all that lost time.

*Concerns were then characterized as whining, complaining, not getting with the program, being difficult, being unwilling to change and more. The same concerns which were expressed yesterday and today started surfacing two years ago. They have simply gotten more sophisticated and detailed as people learn how bad the law really is.

How Low Can the Numbers Go?

There have many Commissioner-approved exemptions since voters rejected RSU/AOS plans around the state in November and January. It would be nice for the rural areas if she would simply grant an exemption for everyone thereby eliminating penalties statewide. The Legislature could then deal with the real issues: is the school reorganization law working as intended? And, if not, what can be done to fix it?

Hitting that price point

Of course, if all the penalties were forgiven for all the non-complying districts and not just those large enough to receive stand-alone exemptions, then there would be no supply-side source within GPA to cover the unanticipated expenses incurred by the 22 reorganized districts.

This highlights the fact that the rural districts that voted not to reorganize are actually doing double duty in the state's favor -- not only by providing the money to cover the reorganization expenses elsewhere but also by avoiding the subsidize-able expenses of reorganization themselves.