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Putting Students First
Gov. LePage's Education Agenda
Gov. Paul LePage has introduced a series of bills for the 2012 legislative session that advance the work of designing an education system around student needs. The legislation aims to provide students and families more power to choose the school setting that works best for each student. The proposals also take steps to ensure all students are taught by effective teachers and provide local school districts an incentive to save money by collaborating with other districts to provide essential services.
The legislative proposals are closely tied to the objectives of the Maine Department of Education's strategic plan, released in January 2012.
Read the Legislation
Read the four pieces of legislation on the website of the Maine Legislature. The official language reflects some changes from the original descriptions of the bills, based on feedback and input during public discussion and in conversations with various stakeholder groups.
- LD 1854: An Act to Expand Educational Opportunities for Maine Students
- Commissioner Bowen's testimony in support, March 15, 2012
- LD 1858: An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership
- Commissioner Bowen's testimony in support, March 14, 2012
- LD 1865: An Act to Enhance Career and Technical Education
- Commissioner Bowen's testimony in support, March 13, 2012
- LD 1866: An Act to Remove Inequity in Student Access to Certain Schools
- Commissioner Bowen's testimony in support, March 15, 2012
Public hearings for all four bills have been scheduled for March 13-15. All hearings will take place in Room 202 of the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. Log onto the Legislature's website to listen remotely.
- Tuesday, March 13, 1 p.m.: An Act to Enhance Career and Technical Education
- Wednesday, March 14, 1 p.m.: An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership
- Thursday, March 15, 1 p.m.: An Act to Remove Inequity in Student Access to Certain Schools
- Thursday, March 15, 1 p.m.: An Act to Expand Educational Opportunities for Maine Students
An Act to Enhance Career and Technical Education
- Requires school districts that share a common Career and Technical Education center to develop a common school calendar with no more than five dissimilar days.
- Ensures that the academic credits students earn while attending classes at Career and Technical Education centers are recognized by their home high schools.
- Establishes a process whereby the Maine Community College System will review state and nationally certified programs at the Career and Technical Education centers and determine the amount of transferrable college credit students can earn by successfully completing them.
An Act to Expand Educational Opportunities for Maine Students
- Strengthens existing superintendent agreement language to ensure that the only criterion that superintendents consider in deciding student transfers is the best interest of the student.
- Establishes a new Schools of Choice open enrollment program.
- School districts and private schools approved to receive public tuition funding can choose to become Schools of Choice by opening their enrollment to students from other school districts.
- Schools of Choice are allowed to determine how many students they are prepared to accept for the coming school year. A student in any district can apply to attend any School of Choice in the state during an enrollment window in the spring, and must be allowed to attend the School of Choice to which he or she has been accepted. Once enrolled in a School of Choice, students need not reapply each year; they are considered residents of the district from that point forward.
- If the number of students applying to attend a School of Choice exceeds the number of available slots, a random selection process must be used. Schools of Choice may not “cherry-pick” students from other schools and districts.
- After the selection process is completed the open enrollment school may maintain a waiting list of students and may enroll them, if space becomes available, up to the end of the first week of school.
- In the case of a transfer to another public school, the student transferring to the open enrollment school technically becomes a resident of the receiving district for the purposes of state funding.
- In the first year a student attends a public School of Choice, there is no impact on funding. The sending school keeps the enrollment “count” for that year. No funding flows to the receiving district.
- In the second year, the student is “counted” for the purpose of state funding as having transferred to a new district and is recognized in the state allocation.
- In the case of a transfer to a private school approved to receive public funding, the student remains in the sending district’s count, and the district pays tuition directly to the private school.
- Because a student attending a School of Choice is considered to have transferred to the receiving district, the receiving district is considered to have responsibility under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide special education services. In the first year, the receiving district bills the sending district for special education costs. In the second year, once the student appears in the “count,” the School of Choice is responsible for special education costs.
- Parents are responsible for transportation to a School of Choice, though Schools of Choice and their districts can decide to provide transportation services for open-enrollment students.
An Act to Remove Inequity in Student Access to Certain Schools
- Removes existing statutory language that prohibits public tuition dollars from going to private religious schools that would otherwise be approved for the receipt of such funding.
- Any school receiving funding under this provision would have to meet specific educational requirements: either accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges or compliance with requirements in state law that 100 percent of their teachers be state-certified, that the school meet the same health and safety standards as public schools and that the school teach a curriculum aligned with state "school approval" requirements.
An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership
- Consistent with the ESEA flexibility package put forward by the U.S. Department of Education, this bill would require school districts to develop or adopt, and then implement, teacher and principal evaluation systems consistent with criteria to be established by the Department through rulemaking.
- Superintendents would be responsible for implementing evaluation systems consistent with requirements set forth in the bill.
- Such systems must be standards-based; use multiple measures of effectiveness, including student achievement and growth as a significant factor; use a four-level rating scale; be conducted regularly; and must provide specific, timely and relevant feedback to teachers and principals that is used to direct and support professional growth.
- Receiving an ineffective rating two years in row becomes just cause for non-renewal of a teacher’s contract. Appeals or grievances related to evaluations must be limited to matters relating to the implementation of the evaluation system, not the actual outcome of the evaluations themselves.
- Phase-in: The Department would begin working with stakeholders to develop guidelines this year, with the goal of having final rules adopted a year from now. Districts would develop or adopt evaluation systems during the 2013-2014 school year, pilot them during the 2014-2015 school year, and fully implement them during the 2015-2016 school year at the latest.
- Once in place, such systems are to be used for, among other things, making personnel and staffing decisions, including reduction-in-force decisions.
- Includes language establishing “Implementation of Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems” as a category of targeted funds under the Essential Programs and Services System, and authorizes the Commissioner to calculate an amount to be used to address evaluation system costs.
- Requires the State Board of Education to develop a comprehensive alternative educator certification process for those who have not completed an approved educator preparation program, but who have the academic and content area expertise that, given proper pedagogical training in a clinical school setting, could make them effective teachers.
- Instructs the state Department of Education to begin collecting data on Maine’s educator preparation programs, including the number of program graduates, the number who then go on to become certified teachers, and the number who remain in teaching at three years and at five years.
- Strengthens certification requirements for math and literacy in the elementary grades and content area knowledge in the middle grades.