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Rally to Support Charter Schools in Maine 

Catherine Pegram

Supporters of charter schools in Maine rallied in Augusta on Monday. They say parents should have more options when it comes to sending their kids to class.And they may get it, with a bill scheduled for lawmakers to consider this session.”I went to high school my whole four years and I didn’t earn no more than five credits.”Everett Polches says his high school education wasn’t an education at all. Now at the Community School, a private, alternative high school in Camden, he sees a future.”I never thought I’d make it to college because I was just so far back. It didn’t seem like a realistic goal. But now? Now it does. I can see it coming.”Members of the Maine Association of Charter Schools say Polches is just one example of what happens when schools can form to fit the needs of students. They’re pushing for more options like that with a bill that would pave the way for public charter schools in Maine.Roger Brainerd, the executive director, says that gives educators a chance to “try new things, they can experiment, they can bring in new models of education and they can really work with the students where the students are, instead of coming through the system which starts in a more top down fashion.”Some opponents are concerned charter schools will take money away from the existing system.But Judith Jones, Chair of the Board for the Maine Association of Charter Schools, say they’ll curb the drop out rate and save money. “Those kids disproportionately end up on welfare, have substance abuse problems, end up in the juvenile justice system. So all of those other ways in which the state social services become involved, that costs the state money to make up for the fact the public education system was not able to meet these kids needs.”Supporters say Maine is one of only ten states without charter schools.”The whole system needs to be improved,” Adds Brainerd. “The charter school system is a way to get the system out of the box a bit, try some new ways of thinking and hopefully, everyone will improve.”The Education Committee is expected to consider a public charter school bill this session, sponsored by Senator Garrett Mason of Androscoggin.A hearing on the bill hasn’t been scheduled yet.