On Monday morning, along with a few other members of the Education Committee, I met with the University’s Chancellor Page to learn his vision for the University system. If the state can maintain flat-funding for the University, the Chancellor says the University can hold tuition steady. The University believes it can accomplish this by finding greater efficiency in consolidated administrative functions. Further, the University plans to broaden its mission to better meet the educational and professional needs of Maine adults and non-traditional students – especially through distance learning and the University’s outreach centers. But the Chancellor made it clear that, to be successful, the University needs to reallocate any administrative savings into new program development.
On Monday afternoon, I spent several hours at the Department of Education reading through three enormous binders that contained the applications of two private virtual charter school organizations. I concentrated on the sections in which charter applicants are required to explain the specific ‘community need’ that their charter school proposes to meet. Given that the applications totaled over a thousand pages, I found the explanation of community need to be remarkably insubstantial. This causes me concern because the premise that charters are necessary to provide educational services that otherwise can’t be met by publicly-governed community schools was an argument that swayed many legislators in the last session. Without demonstration of community need, it’s difficult to argue for the expenditure of community funds, especially at a time of significant curtailment in the state’s own funding for public education.
Late Monday afternoon, I made it back to Bar Harbor for our school board meeting at which the board had a good discussion about the value of open and welcoming community relations in maintaining school safety.