Charter Schools Once Again Coming Under Scrutiny Of Lawmakers
Things could be getting a lot tougher for Maine’s charter schools.State lawmakers are considering multiple proposals that supporters of charter schools say could be disastrous.Roger Brainerd, Executive Director of the Maine Charter School Association says he feels like they’ve been under attack. Multiple bills are being considered by the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, that if passed, Brainerd feels they could mean the end of Maine’s charter schools before they’re given a realistic chance of getting off the ground. “Right now we don’t think it’s appropriate to be tinkering with something before its even been implemented,” Brainerd said Thursday. “We have schools that have just started. Others that are in the planning stages. People are trying to solve problems before they exist.”The most damaging proposal would establish a moratorium on the authorization of new public charter schools until the State provides at least 55% of the total cost of funding public education from kindergarten to grade 12, as set out in the Essential Programs and Services Funding Act. That funding mandate was approved by voters in 2004 and the state has never hit the mark.Officials at the Maine Education Association support the proposals but deny the accusation that they’re against charter schools. “The MEA doesn’t necessarily oppose charter schools but we have some hurdles that must be accomplished before we get there and one of them, the most important one is a separate funding stream so it doesn’t take money away from an already existing k-12 school,” MEA Executive Director Rob Walker said.Another proposal before the committee would strip away much of the power of the Maine Charter School Commission and put the responsibility of approving new charter schools in the hands of the legislature.If these bills survive the committee and votes in the House and Senate, it’s almost a certainty they’ll be vetoed by Governor LePage, a fierce supporter of charter schools.Their fate, and possibly the fate of Maine charter schools as a whole, will likely be determined by whether or not Democrats in the House and Senate can find enough votes to override the governor’s veto.