Local schools stand to get more state money for education

LEWISTON — Schools in the Twin Cities will get more money from the state this year, as will most schools in the tri-county area.

The Lewiston School Department stands to receive $1.23 million more, for a total of $36.5 million in General Purpose Aid to Education, according to preliminary figures from Gov. Paul LePage's administration. The numbers won't be final until they are approved by the Legislature. 

Preliminary figures show Auburn is slated to get $935,000 more for its 2012-13 fiscal budget beginning July 1. The city would receive a total of $18.86 million in state aid.

Statewide, Maine would spend $914.7 million — $19 million more than last year — on prekindergarten-through-grade-12 schools.

Lewiston receives the highest amount of state funding, the level of which is determined by the number of students and the community's ability to pay, based on property values.

Portland has the state's largest school district, but the city has higher property values. It is scheduled to receive $14 million for 2012-13.

While many districts have declining or flat enrollment, Lewiston's is growing by about 100 students per year. Property values were down 6 percent from the year before. The state average was down 2 percent.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said the projected state money “puts us in better shape than some other communities, but we're still going to have tough decisions balancing the needs of students and the capacity of our community” to pay.

The extra $1.23 million will help offset $1 million in lost money because the federal jobs bill money has stopped, and because changes in MaineCare regulations on how schools are reimbursed for special education services.

“So, the $1.2 million allows us to maintain where we are, but doesn't cover the additional costs of increasing enrollment, and to meet our mission of ensuring the academic success of all students,” Webster said.

To reduce the number of high school dropouts, Lewiston needs more alternative programs and in-school suspension programs. “We should have universal pre-K. We don't,” Webster said.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said she was pleased to be getting more money. “However, it's a false positive,” she said.

The school district is losing $632,130 in federal jobs money and last year took $853,000 out of its fund balance for the budget.

Weighing the additional state money against replacing the fund balance and jobs money, there is a gap of about $549,000 Grondin said. That's without considering rising costs of insurance, salaries and oil, she said.

Auburn continues to fund schools below the level recommended by the state's Essential Programs and Services formula. “We're $2.9 million below EPS, which is significant,” Grondin said.

In Wales, Regional School Unit 4 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said he was hopeful but cautious.

Sabattus-Wales-Litchfield schools, which have a current budget of $17.4 million, stand to receive $225,000 more than last year. “It is what we were hoping,” Hodgkin said, adding that it was too early to know whether the number would mean he'd add, cut or maintain programs.

Poland Superintendent Dennis Duquette was delighted with the projected numbers, saying it was more than expected.

“We gained $681,473," he said. "It's a blessing.”

His district is expecting a $1.5 million deficit from the loss of federal money, from money taken from the fund balance and from rising operating costs. “So when you get $681,000 more, it's gigantic. It means we probably are not going to cut any programs or teachers,” Duquette said.

The district will consider changes in health insurance benefits and contract negotiations. “You can only give what you have to give,” he said.

Poland-Minot-Mechanic Falls schools have already made a lot of cuts, Duquette said. Last year, the three towns created one middle school and fewer teachers are giving students more academic opportunities, Duquette said. “It's been a huge success.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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DONALD FERLAND's picture

A better solution to the

A better solution to the problem with the schools would be to get rid of "No Child Left Behind". That unfunded mandate is what is causing our schools to fail because the teachers have to teach to a damn test instead of teaching to the basics. The tests also do not take into account that some kids just do not test well. There is no help for the kids that just need a little extra boost to actually grasp things. It took me 6 years to get my child into Title 1 for math, now that he is there his test scores went from 208 to 220. We are focusing so much attention on the tests that we are forgetting the basics.

Another thing, parents need to take responsibility for sitting with their child while they are doing their homework and making sure the student is doing it and understanding it. If the child is not understanding it then it is up to the parent to get to the bottom of why. It is up to the parent to go to the school and advocate for their child. It is up to the parent to call a meeting with officials and say what are you going to do to help me (us) get this child where he belongs.

Stop putting the failure all on the teachers and put it where it belongs....the parents, the students, the system, the government and fix the problems versus putting a bandaid on the problems.

Mike Lachance's picture

Tina, give us a break.

Tina, give us a break. Schools are not failing because of NCLB. (BTW did you know NCLB wasa Dem. Idea pushed in the 1990's and then embraced by GWBush? No? Yes. 100%. Look it up.

Now the meat and potatoes is the Schools and the TEACHERS. When I was in HS (back in the 80's) our Senior English teacher was as boring as a box of rocks. We had (1) girl who was an honor student (what she was doing in our class we had no idea)... she got an A always. The rest of us were sleeping. literally. At the end oif the year i'd say roughly 80% of the class was going to get an F. Flunk. Guess what. We all passed with a D. I didnt learn a damned thing in that class, and I failed almost every test. But hey, who cares, I passed the class and got my diploma.

Dont you dare blame NCLB for failing schools. NCLB shined a light on whats been getting bigger and bigger for the last 30 years: Crap teachers.

Are there better approaches than NCLB? Probably. But it isnt NCLB that is the problem.

 's picture

Tina - NCLB definitely needs

Tina - NCLB definitely needs to be gotten rid of but it isn't "what is causing our schools to fail". It might be what defines specific schools as failing, but in a broad sense, it isn't responsible for the fact that our schools are failing. When it comes down to it, the primary culprit is culture. This country needs a kick in the face and a drastic change in culture. Education is not seen as nearly as important as it is by such a large amount of Americans. This is a failure of schools, parents, and the United States as a whole. But all we really see are tiny little reforms that think throwing more and more money at schools will fix the situation. Money can help.. there is no question. The schools and youth in this country will not start to truly turn around, however, until we figure out how to implement a drastic change in culture.

Mike Lachance's picture

MONEY, is NOT the

MONEY, is NOT the answer.
FAILING students need to be HELD BACK.
STOP passing the flunking kids into the next grade.
Is it really so complicated? NO!
If your kid FLUNKS you kid doesnt move on to the next grade!

This is so absurd, we spend more on education than almost every other state in the US and what do we have to show for it? Taxes higher than almost any other state in the US and kids who are flunking.

When are folks gonna figure this one out?
Buying flunking kids iPads and giving them free laptops isnt doing anything for their education. PASSING kids who FAIL isnt doing anything either. Loose the iPads and FLUNK the FLUNKEES and guess what? evenutually performace will improve. (three years in 4th grade should produce and very smart 4th grader)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

When no one fails, nobody

When no one fails, nobody really passes. That's why when little Leon comes in 18th out of 20 in a schoolyard race, he gets a trophy. No one is allowed to fail.

Carl Kimball's picture

SCHOOLS

I'm happy to see money being used on education, but when are the teachers here in Lewiston going to start earning it. I know of one child who past the last three years with failing grades, their in high school now. I know some who are headed for middle school and don't know how to spell worth beans. The lady a month ago said our system is still the late 1800's, but i question that. I went to school under that system and was held back in the 5th grade, because i had B's and C's and the teacher felt i could do better. But like i said earlier, today they pass with failing grades. Maybe it's the "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" crap,if so then it's the money thing...pass them so we can get the extra money...If their failing then we are failing, give them the help they need and you'll be giving them, us and the country a better future. (just my opinion, not that of this paper)

 's picture

Your first sentence makes it

Your first sentence makes it sound like the money is going to go to give all the teachers raises. If any of it is, it's very little. The teachers are doing more than enough work to earn their salaries. Many are placed in extremely challenging positions, and nothing is nearly as black and white as you present it.

Carl Kimball's picture

YOUR FIRST SENTENCE MAKE IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR A TEACHER

I'm sorry Shane if i hit a nerve, but when schools allow kids to pass even thu their failing,(more then one class), then someone is not earning their pay. I've seen it, teachers come to work, sit behind their desk and go home. If kids are having a hard time learning something, they have to make an appointment with the teacher to get help....stop the crap and be there for those kids who need you, don't annoy them like their parents do. Teachers want to be respected, but it's like everything else in this world, if you want respect then earn it. In my book, if you help at least one child to get through with passing grades, you have done the most important thing in your life. I had a history teacher in High School who would not give up on me and thanks to him i completed high school. Now am always digging into history just because of that one teacher. I was held back in the 5th grade, failed in my freshman year and stayed back again in my Jr year,but because this one teacher would not give up on me, i did Jr & Sr years together without a study period and i passed. These teachers are rare around here, but their heros in my book. You talk about challenge, you must be talking about the "bad" student who disrupts the class. It goes back to respect and trust. It's not easy, but they have peers who pressure them, they have parents who don't have time or never learnt respect, themselves. You need to be ready to face that challenge head on, need to be patient (very patient)and have a keen imagination. You can't win them all over, but enjoy the ones you do...(just my opinion)...

Mike Lachance's picture

I agree with Carl 100% This

I agree with Carl 100%
This is the problem.

I have seen these types of "could care less" teachers with my daughter when she has had questions. Many teachers will not give a student one minute of their time outside of regular scheduled school time. These bad apples are becoming the orchard. Sure there are some great teachers, but they are now the exception, not the rule.

A decade or two ago it was the other way around.

 's picture

I agree these teachers exist.

I agree these teachers exist. I have had them and I have worked with them. I am the first person to support drastic changes to tenure policies so it is easier to replace these teachers. But you are wrong that they are the norm. They are still very much the exception, especially in Lewiston. And Carl- it is so much more complicated than simply holding students back. I would suggest you do more reading on the challenges of ESL students and a large immigrant population because it isn't a simple situation by any means.

Mike Lachance's picture

ESL. bingo. to quote a

ESL. bingo. to quote a teacher as spoken to my wife regarding poor classroom performance with ESL students: "we can only go as fast as the slowest student"

Failing ESL students should be held back the same as others. If they refuse to learn they can drop out of that 3rd grade class when they turn 16.

If they need an english class then we would be happy to pay for remedial english classes after regular school hours for those who wish to learn. We need to quit avoiding the real issues with ESL and tackle the problem. If the kids dont care about learning they wont learn, but there is no reason they need to be allowed to ruin it for the kids who want to learn.

 's picture

That sounds too much like you

That sounds too much like you want to just give up on a whole lot of kids, though. Is holding back a child over and over going to be what motivates them to learn? A 4th grader should never be demonized for "refusing to learn" because.. well, he's 10 years old. He's likely a victim of circumstance, and we should work hard to change him and find way to motivate him to learn rather than give up on him because he may be holding other kids back.

Mike Lachance's picture

Oh i do agree... we can ad

Oh i do agree... we can ad SHOULD work hard to motivate him and change him as MUCH as needed as long as he STAYS in that 4th grade class year after year until he masters the 4th grade curriculum.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great teachers went the way

Great teachers went the way of the dinosaur in the 80's.

Mike Lachance's picture

agreed.

agreed.

GARY SAVARD's picture

The city is slowly losing

The city is slowly losing population, yet we are gaining on average 100 students per year. When does the City of Lewiston reach the tipping point? You can only tax property owners so much before you start to add them to the welfare rolls, especially retirees and others on fixed incomes. When it comes to the school department, we never seem to have enough money, no matter where it comes from.

Jason Theriault's picture

No

Welfare is based on income, not on taxes.

Besides, lets say the city decided "Awww, what the heck, lets give the schools $2 million dollars", that would translate to about a $90 ANNUAL increase in taxes. If that put you in the poor house, then alot of thing have already gone wrong for you, and you were probably going to be on welfare anyway.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Any tax increase that would

Any tax increase that would go specifically for the public school system, aka,the Dept. of Education would be a blatant misappropriation of taxpayer funds. Government schools are the reason why schools like St. Dom's, NYA, Hebron Academy, et al, are thriving.

Mike Lachance's picture

Youre half correct here.

Youre half correct here. Public Schools are a reason private schools thrive. But the private schools in Maine are hurting right now. Not because of the curriculum or the performance (they outperform public education by miles) but because of the economy. St. Doms will accept almost anyone, probably even avowed athiests if they have the $$. This is sad.

I do know there are Christian Schools that are top-level adacemically that are not at all expensive, and the best part is that they still hold the students and parents to the mission statement of a true Christian School. That involves active parental involvement and family-centered Christ-centered living (notice not "God" as that can mean anything to anybody). But this is one reason when combined with the economy that they are hurting right now. The only upside is that the student to teacher ratio is extremely good. No public school can tough the Christian Academies in this area, and the tuition is surprisingly low.

Hebron Academy and St. Doms are just flat out expensive... too expensive for all but the financially cozy...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thank you for the additional

Thank you for the additional information.

 's picture

I can't speak for NYA or

I can't speak for NYA or Hebron but St. Dom's and Catholic education in the Twin Cities has been experiencing dramatic decreases in enrollment and resulting teacher layoffs that have made news for the past few years .. it's doing anything but thriving. Barely a decade ago a new high school was built to be large enough to house students in grades 9-12. Now it has plenty of room for grades 7-12. I don't see how St. Dom's could ever be considered "thriving".

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

2 out of 3 ain't bad...

2 out of 3 ain't bad...

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