When conservatives in Augusta pushed to implement the law enabling charter schools in Maine in 2011, their goal was to provide alternative choices for students looking for innovative approaches to education. To ensure the new system had proper oversight and was adequately serving student needs, they initially operated under a go-slow, pilot program, and the law applied a cap restricting the state from approving more than 10 charter schools before 2021.
In the seven years since the program’s enactment, the state has adopted nine charter schools, two of which are virtual charter schools capable of serving students anywhere in the state. Today, the program continues to flourish. Charter schools are serving roughly 2,000 students across the state and eight of the nine approved schools already have waitlists filled with students eager to get in.
After seeing early successes in the program, it’s time for Maine to approve more schools so students across the state can benefit from enhanced school choice and educational opportunity. “I see no reason to continue to keep this arbitrary cap in place,” Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason stated in 2017.
Maine needs more charter schools because most of the approved schools are clustered in central and southern areas of the state, providing limited choices for students in rural areas like Aroostook, Hancock and Washington counties. Additionally, there is a demand for these services which the state is currently unable to meet due to the 2011 legislative cap, harming the education of students on waitlists and their future shot at prosperity.
Adding more virtual schools like the Maine Virtual Academy and Maine Connections Academy to our state’s education portfolio would best serve these students, as would the creation of charter schools in northern areas of Maine.
Students, educators, legislators, and all members of the public are invited to join The Maine Heritage Policy Center for a luncheon discussion with Dr. Judith Jones, Chair of the Maine Association of Charter Schools, on Wednesday, February 14, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor.
For more information or to register for this event, please click here.