For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - State Rep. Les Fossel has taken a strong position against a bill to curtail school choice for residents of the Town of Alna and the Town of Westport Island. He said the legislation, currently before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, is a "flawed" attempt to force Alna students in kindergarten through eighth grade to attend Wiscasset schools.
The bill, LD 1214, would permit the voters in Regional School Unit 12 to vote at referendum on whether to end K-8 school choice for Alna and Westport Island and require students from those towns to attend school in Wiscasset. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bruce MacDonald (D-Boothbay), is opposed by the Alna board of selectmen and by Alna's school board members.
At a public hearing on the bill, held April 8, Rep. Fossel (R-Alna) told Education Committee members that the bill was not requested by Alna voters, who approved school choice as a condition of joining RSU 12 in 2008.
He said the bill also was never subject to any public meeting or discussion in Alna, where 60 percent of parents of school-age children opt to "tuition out" their children to other schools, including private, non-religious schools. Alna has no schools of its own and has tuitioned out its K-12 students since 1962.
Rep. Fossel also noted that school choice saves taxpayers large sums of money. For example, he said, the tuitioned out cost for Alna primary school students is $8,080 less than the cost for Wiscasset Primary School. For Alna middle schoolers who tuition out, the cost is $7,294 less than at Wiscasset Middle School.
The most dramatic differential is in high school, where the cost of Alna students tuitioned out is $13,392 less than for those who attend Wiscasset High School. The cost per student at Wiscasset High is $22,630 for this school year. "If Alna were not in the RSU and was allowed to tuition out all its students, the savings to Alna taxpayers would be enormous," Rep. Fossel said.
The Education Committee has scheduled a work session on the bill for April 13. Rep. Fossel urged the committee to vote down the proposal. ###
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