Public Charter Schools in Maine

Charter schools are public schools of choice students can decide to attend as an alternative to traditional public schools.

Governor Paul R. LePage signed L.D. 1553 into law on June 29, 2011, making Maine the 41st state to allow public charter schools. The law took effect Sept. 28, 2011, as Public Law 2011, Chapter 414.

Nine public charter schools in Maine are currently in operation: Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland; Cornville Regional Charter School in Cornville; Fiddlehead School of Arts and Science in Gray; Harpswell Coastal Academy in Harpswell; Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley; Acadia Academy in Lewiston; Snow Pond Arts Academy in Sidney; and virtual schools Maine Connections Academy and Maine Virtual Academy.

Maine's first public charter schools opened in the 2012-13 school year. A student may attend any charter school that serves his or her grade level as long as the school has sufficient space.

Charter Schools Explained

Charter schools are publicly funded schools governed and operated independently of the traditional public school system. They have more flexibility than traditional public schools over decisions concerning curriculum and instruction, scheduling, staffing and finance. Charter schools, however, are accountable to the terms of the contracts, or charters, that authorize their existence and the academic standards to which all other public schools are accountable.

Charter schools cannot set admission standards for their students. A charter school in Maine must accept any Maine resident student unless the school or a particular grade level at the school has reached its enrollment capacity.

Creating a Charter School

Each Maine charter school begins with a request for proposals issued by a charter school authorizer – either the seven-member Maine Charter School Commission formed under Maine’s charter school law, a local school board or a group of school boards.

Any nonprofit, non-religious organization is eligible to respond to such a request with an application that outlines the student population and communities targeted by its proposed school; organizational, governance and financial plans; student and staff policies; and the proposed school’s academic program.

Opening a Charter School

The Maine Department of Education has developed rules concerning the implementation of the charter school law. The State Board of Education has set up the Maine Charter School Commission, which is comprised of three members of the State Board and four others nominated by those Board members.

The law allows the Charter School Commission to authorize a maximum of 10 charter schools during a 10-year period. Local school boards can authorize additional charter schools within the boundaries of their school administrative units. Those charter schools authorized do not count toward the 10-school limit of the Charter School Commission.


Debra Plowman
Director of Policy and Programs
Maine Department of Education