Consistent Certification of Graduation Standards

9 February 2015

Senator Langley, Representative Kornfield, esteemed colleagues on the Education Committee:

I am Brian Hubbell, representing House District 135 – Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, and Lamoine – and I am before you this afternoon to present LD 3: An Act To Ensure Consistent Certification of Graduation Standards in Publicly Funded Secondary Schools.

As published, this bill reconciles what I believe were parallel expectations when the 125th Legislature enacted both the charter school law and the proficiency-based diploma requirements.

LD 1422, the proficiency diploma bill, amended Section 4722-A to require that:

Beginning January 1, 2017, a diploma indicating graduation from a secondary school must be based on student demonstration of proficiency…

As this law was enacted in May 2012 following the charter school law enactment in June 2011, I recall that there was a shared legislative expectation that the diploma requirement applied not only to the regular public schools and the publicly-funded 60% town academies (which were already specifically subject to the full requirements of the Maine Learning Results) but also to the new category of publicly-funded charter schools.

I believe this is commonly understood also by the state Charter Commission and the charter schools which subsequently have been approved.

However this expectation is not explicit in statute.

So, as published, LD 3 amends two sections of law:

§6209. System of learning results established is amended as follows:

…students in a public school, a public charter school as defined in section 2401, subsection 9 or a private school approved for tuition that enrolls at least 60% publicly funded students, …are required to participate in the system of learning results set forth in this section and in department rules.

and §6202. State assessment program established; content is similarly amended as follows:

…assessment applies to students in the public elementary and secondary schools, in public charter schools, as that term is defined in section 2401, subsection 9, and in all private schools approved for tuition whose school enrollments include at least 60% publicly funded students

This is as far as LD 3 goes, as printed.

Given that the proficiency diploma requirement already references all secondary schools, it seemed sufficient to me to bring explicit reference to charter schools into the sections on learning results and assessment to join, in parallel, with public schools and the town academies.

However, after the bill was published, the Department raised the concern that the charter school law §2412 on charter school operations delineates the specific regulations applying to charter schools and that, without adding explicit reference in this section, the proficiency diploma requirement for charter schools could remain unclear.

So, for the committee’s consideration, I offer the attached amendment.

This amendment includes the original bill language but also adds this new paragraph to §2412, sub­§5:

Public charter schools are subject to the same proficiency–based diploma standards set forth in section 4722­A and are eligible for the same transition grants as applicable to other non­charter public schools in the State.

The Department also suggested that, while we were amending the section on charter school operations, it would be appropriate to update with another paragraph making it clear that any charter early education programs are subject to the public preschool rules.

So, to this section, this amendment also adds:

A public charter school that operates a public preschool program must meet the department rules established for basic school approval standards for public preschool programs in accordance with section 4271, subsection 4 and section 4502, subsection 9.

For clarity, the Department also suggested revisiting the § 4722-A  proficiency diploma requirement to include specific reference to charter schools.

Beginning January 1, 2017, a diploma indicating graduation from a secondary school, including a public charter school, must be based on student demonstration of proficiency…

However, I was now concerned that, if it is necessary in statute to specifically name charter schools as secondary schools to ensure the applicability of the diploma requirements, then the statute should also name the 60% town academies as the law does in the sections relating to the Learning Results and state assessments.

So the amendment language is:

Beginning January 1, 2017, a diploma indicating graduation from a secondary school, including a public charter school or a private school approved for tuition that enrolls 60% or more publicly funded students, must be based on student demonstration of proficiency…

I remain unconvinced that it is wholly necessary to specify in Section 4722-A that secondary schools include charters and town academies.  However, providing some statutory specificity by example may be useful and I see this amended language as clarifying the requirement without adding any additional burden.

Otherwise, I would say that this delineation is necessary only if any charters or academies believed that, without the amended language, they are exempt from the diploma requirements.

Thank you for your consideration.  I’m happy to answer any questions.

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