Commentary

MECEP Got it Wrong on Question 2

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On October 19, Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), published an article on Question 2 that was rife with inaccuracies. Here’s why, according to Jim Rier, former commissioner of the Maine Department of Education and one of the state’s leading experts on the school funding formula.

No Communities Will Lose Education Funding as a Result of Question 2

FALSE- Some units will lose unless the Legislature makes changes to Chapter 606-section 15689 (sub 11). By lowering the required mill rate that Question 2 does, some units will no longer be eligible for the minimum subsidy adjustment for economically disadvantaged students that they currently qualify for and will actually receive less subsidy than currently provided.  

Don’t be deceived Sebago, Lincolnville, Greenwood, Bremen, Newry, Machiasport, and Jonesport. Despite Maine Heritage Policy Center’s (MHPC) bogus claim, a “Yes” vote on Question 2 will not cause you to lose education funding. In fact, you likely stand to gain funding if Question 2 passes.

Towns that lose education funding do so when they have a drop in student enrollment or an increase in property values. Question 2 does not change that.

FALSE- The subsidy for those units are unaffected by population and high property value – their subsidy is 30% of their special education allocation.

What Question 2 will do is make more resources available to communities throughout Maine. This includes low property valuation towns with limited capacity to absorb the tremendous education cost shift to property taxpayers in Maine over the last several years as the state has handed out income tax cuts to wealthy Mainers at the expenses of funding for schools and other local services.

While it is true that some communities representing less than 6% of Maine students (12,000 students and 1,030 teachers in 45 units that operate schools to be exact) are not likely to get any additional funding as a result of Question 2, these are property rich towns…

FALSE- Lubec, one of the 130 towns that will receive no additional funding, has 80% of their students economically disadvantaged. Many of these towns are far from what anyone would consider “rich.” Further, Question 2 does nothing to ensure education equity.

…Sure, as opponents of Question 2 are quick to point out, some towns in southern Maine will get more money in total than other towns in the state, but that’s because they have more students.

FALSE– They would receive more because they have higher property values, so when you lower the required mill rate they receive much greater increases.

On a per student basis, it is the towns that have the least capacity (i.e. low property valuations) to absorb the state’s education cost shift that stand to gain the most.

FALSE- Lewiston ($403,000 property valuation/student) gains 8% and spends $1.8 million below EPS with 72% disadvantaged students compared to Falmouth ($989,000 property value per/student) that gains 26% and spends 22% over EPS with 6.7% disadvantaged students – further Falmouth gets $1,487 per student and Lewiston gets $754 per student or RSU/SAD#29 in the Houlton area that receives $578 per student and has 67% economically disadvantaged students.

 

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to his tenure at MHPC, Matt spent eight years working in national politics in Washington, D.C., most recently as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association. A Hampden native, Matt is a nationally recognized political strategist and communicator.

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