Governor LePage Signs Bill Aimed at Fixing Education Funding Formula

July 4, 2011

Rural areas of Maine to benefit from new law

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 04, 2011 Contact: Adrienne Bennett (207) 287-2531

Augusta, Maine – A bill signing ceremony was held Monday at Shead High School in Eastport where Governor Paul LePage signed LD 1274 prior to his participation in the Eastport Independence Day Parade.

The bill, “An Act to Restore Equity in Education Funding” was sponsored by Senate President Kevin L. Raye, of Perry. It reforms the state's controversial Essential Programs and Services (EPS) school funding formula. Those who attended the signing ceremony included Senate President Raye, Rep. Howard McFadden, Rep. Dianne Tilton, Rep. David Burns, AOS 77 Superintendent Jim Underwood, AOS 96 Superintendent Scott Porter, and other municipal and school officials.

“This law will begin to correct an error in our educational funding formula, and will benefit our rural areas,” said Governor LePage. “This is a victory for parents, students, and teachers in parts of our State like Washington County that have felt a negative impact for several years because of their smaller school districts. The system is not fair and we are attempting to make it more equitable for everyone.”

The new law contains three provisions designed to make the state's education funding formula more equitable. It removes an unjustified provision in existing law that subjects state reimbursement for school personnel benefits to the labor market index, thus reimbursing schools in lower income areas at a lesser rate than wealthier communities.

It also adds a new provision allowing for a 10% increase in the staffing ratio for school districts of less than 1,200 students, acknowledging in law that smaller districts cannot achieve the economies of scale enjoyed by the State's largest school districts. Finally, the newly-passed law provides an additional minimum subsidy for communities suffering the double whammy of being property-rich but with a low-income population. We injected some long-needed common sense into the formula by finally ensuring that a community's ability to pay is factored in. Now, the law will stipulate that additional subsidies in high-valuation minimum subsidy communities be calculated based on students qualifying for free and reduced lunch at greater than the State average.

Superintendent Underwood expressed his appreciation toward the Governor and everyone involved with fixing this problem. “We’re extremely grateful in Washington County for the great work of Senate President Kevin Raye, Rep. Howard McFadden, Rep. Joyce Maker, Rep. Dianne Tilton, Rep. David Burns, Rep. Beth Turner, and the tremendous support from Governor LePage in signing LD 1274,” he said. “This bill will benefit so many rural areas in need. It’s well known that our area is one of the most economically deprived parts of the State and for the sake of our students and their education we deeply appreciate what the legislators from all parts of the State have done to help out our children. Thank you Governor LePage.”

Leading the initiative, Raye won final approval this week from the Senate with a 17-15 vote on LD 1274. The measure was passed in the House by a vote of 84-56.

“Today's signing of LD 1274 is a victory for fairness and common sense. I hope it will begin to heal the divisions created by the imposition of the EPS formula, and repair the damage done to rural education over six devastating years during which children, teachers and property tax payers in small towns across Maine have suffered under an unfair and punitive school funding scheme,” said Raye.

"I am grateful for Governor LePage’s unwavering support of this new law, and for his inclusion of additional funds for education in his budget. While LD 1274 alone will not make rural education whole, it corrects some of the worst, most unfair and offensive flaws in the EPS formula. And by combining it with increased funds overall, not a single school district in Maine will receive less money than they do today," Raye concluded.

Because many school budgets for 2011-12 school year area already set, the funding formula changes will take effect in the 2012-13 school year.