Commentary

Legislature to Consider Removing Cap on Maine’s Charter Schools

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There’s nothing more enjoyable as a constituent than seeing your elected officials keep their word.

Last July, I attended the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Milton Friedman Legacy Day Luncheon in Portland. Speaking at the event was my state senator, Senate Majority Leader Garret Mason, R-Androscoggin, who promised to continue championing school choice in Maine.

Sure enough, Mason kept his word.

Mason has introduced legislation that would remove the cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in Maine. As a result, Maine could invest in additional charter schools, and students across the state could benefit from enhanced school choice and educational opportunities.

During his first term in the legislature, Mason spearheaded legislation in 2011 that established the first charter schools in Maine. However, the bill included a “transition period” provision that prevented the state from approving more than 10 charter schools by 2021, or within 10 years of the law’s passage.

The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, April 18, regarding LD 1158, Mason’s new bill that would remove the cap established by his 2011 legislation and better serve the needs of rural Maine students.

“I see no reason to continue to keep this arbitrary cap in place,” Mason said in a press release.

In just six short years, Maine has already adopted nine charter schools, two of which are virtual charter schools capable of serving students anywhere in the state. However, most of Maine’s charter schools are clustered in central and southern Maine, providing limited educational opportunities to students in rural areas like Aroostook, Hancock and Washington counties.

With a tenth charter school already in the process of applying, Mason’s new bill would allow for more charter schools to apply and operate in Maine to provide additional choices to underserved students in rural communities. Adding more virtual schools like the Maine Virtual Academy and Maine Connections Academy to our state’s education portfolio would best serve these students.

“Although they are still relatively new to our state, charter schools have already proven to be a worthwhile investment. Of the nine schools in operation, eight already have lists of students waiting for openings to get in,” Mason said in a press release.

“Nearly 2,000 students currently benefit from the charter school model of education, which provides innovative, alternative opportunities for students to learn and grow. It is clear that the demand for this style of education is there and the “transition period” provision will soon limit opportunities for Maine students.”

Maine students should not be forced into attending struggling institutions or traveling long distances when there are viable alternatives that offer an equal or enhanced quality of education in comparison to the public school system.

Take action today and contact the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee in support of LD 1158.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the editor of the Maine Wire. He can be reached at jacobtposik@gmail.com.

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