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For Immediate Release

Date: 02/28/11

Rep. McFadden Sees Busy Session for Education Committee

AUGUSTA - State Rep. Howard McFadden reports heavy activity on the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, with school funding at the center of the agenda.

This session marks his third term on the committee, putting him in position to shape legislation on a range of issues, from school finance and special education to the community college and University of Maine systems.

Rep. McFadden (R-Dennysville), a retired educational administrator, said he is pleased to be back on the committee. "I believe that with new leadership, we can fix the flawed school funding formula, including Essential Programs and Services, to make funding distribution more equitable for rural parts of the state," he said.

The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee's jurisdiction includes the Department of Education; school finance; school budgets; special education and child development services; school choice and homeschooling.

The panel also oversees the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System. Its cultural affairs jurisdiction includes the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine State Library, the Maine State Museum and the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation.

"I want to keep a close eye on funding for higher education, to make it more affordable," Rep. McFadden said. "If we can keep the costs down, more students across the state could earn degrees, either associate's degrees or bachelor's. A well-educated workforce is one of the strongest components of a health economy."

The fourth-term legislator said the Education Committee will deal with an estimated 200 bills this session. One of them, he said, would extend the school year from 180 days to 185 days. "We all want better education," he said, "but this would be an unfunded mandate and the cost would have to be covered by the towns. Employers who hire high school students for summer jobs also don't want the schools opening before Labor Day. We'll have to see how this plays out."

Rep. McFadden said state aid to schools is expected to again fall short of the 55 percent level established by referendum in 2004. "The state really doesn't have the money to fund schools at 55 percent," he said. "But Governor LePage's budget proposal increased school funding by $63 million to keep us at least at the 45 percent level."

The Maine Legislature has 16 joint standing committees, each composed of 13 members - three senators and 10 members of the House. Every committee has jurisdiction over clearly defined parts of state government.

Rep. McFadden represents House district 30, which includes Alexander, Amherst, Aurora, Beddington, Cooper, Crawford, Deblois, Dennysville, East Machias, Eastbrook, Franklin, Great Pond, Jonesboro, Mariaville, Marshfield, Meddybemps, Northfield, Osborn, Pembroke, Wesley and Whitneyville.

The district also includes the unorganized territories of Centerville Township, East Central Washington (part, including Edmunds, Marion and No. 14 Townships), East Hancock (part), North Washington (part) and Northwest Hancock. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445