Maine will no longer have to use state money to pay for school reforms ordered by the No Child Left Behind Act.

A resolve passed by the Legislature prohibits Maine from using state money on the federal mandates, which have been called costly and oppressive by many educators.

The resolve, which carries the force of law, allows the Maine Department of Education to spend state money to study of the costs and benefits of No Child Left Behind.

Officials do not know how much the state is spending to comply with the 1,100-page federal law.

“We do know that this is extremely costly for our state,” said Sen. Peggy Rotundo, a Lewiston Democrat. “But the only way we can show that is by showing where we spend money on No Child Left Behind and by refusing to spend any more.”

A similar Ohio study found that complying with the law cost that state $1.5 billion a year.

Signed by President George W. Bush in January 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to adhere to dozens of new mandates, such as yearly testing for elementary students. If a school fails to meet requirements, it must make improvements or face penalties.
Schools warned
Maine has cited 10 schools for failing to meet federal requirements this year. The state has warned another 120 they could fail if they don’t improve soon.

Maine has enough money to help those 10 failing schools, Gendron said. But it likely won’t have the funds to help 120. The Legislature’s decision this week means the state won’t have to spend its own money to bring those schools up to federal standards.

Federal officials say states will lose federal funding if they don’t adhere to No Child Left Behind. For Maine, that could be more than $90 million a year.

But Gendron said Maine may not lose that money if it can show that the federal government is not adequately funding the law.

“We’d have to be able to demonstrate that is the case,” she said.

The resolve is the latest attempt by lawmakers to distance Maine from No Child Left Behind.
Made demand
Last spring, Maine became the first state to demand that the federal government either fully pay for the law or waive its requirements. Federal officials refused.

After that, legislators asked education officials to start tracking how much the state spends on the law.

All four members of the state’s congressional delegation have discussed No Child Left Behind with area educators. All have said it needs to be reformed and better funded.

The Maine Department of Education must present its No Child Left Behind funding study by Jan. 15.

According to the House Majority Office, the governor must sign the resolve for it to become law.

His office did not immediately return a phone call on Tuesday.

Baldacci has supported past measures to rein in the demands of No Child Left Behind.