Baldacci hits road to promote his education plan

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LEWISTON – Gov. John Baldacci will kick off a statewide effort Wednesday to pitch his bold plan to slash school districts and superintendents from 152 to 26.

Baldacci will be at the Lewiston Middle School auditorium at 7 p.m. to offer an overview of the plan. Also presenting will be Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron. They will then listen to and answer questions from audience members.

The Lewiston stop will be the first of several around Maine as Baldacci tries to tell citizens what his plan would do and why he’s pushing it.

The meeting is for anyone, parents, students, business people, educators and school board members, said Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

The consolidation plan is part of the governor’s proposed two-year state budget. He proposes that it begin July 1, 2008, and that Maine would save about $250 million in two years by slashing school administration. That money would be returned to taxpayers, he has said.

Under the plan, Lewiston-Auburn schools would belong to one large school district, Region 18, as would other nearby towns. They include: Greene, Leeds, Lewiston, Lisbon, Litchfield, Mechanic Falls, Minot, Poland, Sabattus, Turner and Wales.

Region 19 would include Farmington, Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Chesterville, Eustis, Industry, Jay, Kingfield, Livermore, Livermore Falls, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Phillips, Rangeley, Strong, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

Region 20 would include Rumford, Andover, Bethel, Byron, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Gilead, Greenwood, Hanover, Mexico, Newry, Peru, Roxbury, Upton and Woodstock.

And Region 21 would include Oxford, Buckfield, Harrison, Hartford, Hebron, Norway, Otisfield, Paris, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris.

On Feb. 5, the legislative Education Committee will hold a public hearing on Baldacci’s consolidation plan, and other consolidation legislation proposals, at the Augusta Civic Center.

More Baldacci-Gendron town meetings in other parts of Maine are being scheduled.

For more information about the initiative, go to www.maine.gov/education and click on the Local Schools, Regional Support logo. For additional information about the forum, call the Department of Education at 624-6600.

– Bonnie Washuk

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