A proposal by Rep. Barbara Bagshaw (R-Windham) of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee to lift the enrollment cap on Maine’s virtual charter schools was again rejected by the Legislative Council along party lines.
After members of the Council voted down her bill earlier this month, Rep. Bagshaw moved to appeal the decision, arguing that the legislature and the public ought to have the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion on the issue.
Maine’s two virtual charter schools — Maine’s Virtual Academy and Maine Connections Academy — are currently capped at a combined enrollment of 1,000 students.
This restriction was implemented by the State Legislature in 2019 at the same time that they voted to indefinitely institute a measure allowing no more than 10 charter schools to operate in Maine at a given time.
Out of all Maine’s charter schools, Maine’s Virtual Academy and Maine Connections Academy have the two largest wait lists for the 2022-23 school year, comprised of 57 and 93 students respectively.
Although Bagshaw was unable to attend today’s appeal hearing, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) read a statement on her behalf.
“I have appealed the decision on behalf of parental choice,” Bagshaw wrote. “Families need options to ensure the best education for their children.”
“If people can’t afford private school or to home school,” Bagshaw had written, “charter schools might be the best option. The legislature and the public should be able to have the discussion my bill will generate.”
With no questions asked by members of the Council, a vote was held on Bagshaw’s motion to appeal their rejection of the proposed bill.
Members voted four-to-six — along party lines — to again reject the bill, blocking it from coming before the Legislature during the second regular session.
“I find the Council’s party-line rejection of my proposal to lift the virtual school cap disappointing,” Bagshaw told the Maine Wire.
“If public schools want to push a social emotional agenda, that ignores our academic test scores being in the dumper, refuses to educate in the basics, there needs to be balance and options for families,” she said.
“Taxpayers monies should follow the children, and accommodate their diverse learning needs,” Bagshaw continued.
“The high paying jobs in science and technology require a strong foundation in math and science. We are doing our students a grave disservice by not focusing on core academics,” Bagshaw concluded. “By limiting their options, we are dooming them to low paying service jobs.”