Maine’s latest version of a school consolidation law (LD 499) is based on the Sinclair Act of 1957; the law that created School Administrative Districts (SADs). Studies by University of Maine faculty have shown the Sinclair Act, during its 50 years of existence, did not do what it was designed to do. It did not decrease costs for towns or improve student performance. It led to more long distance busing, more dropouts, the building of large schools, and more administrators. The state poured money into SADs to make it work and costs per pupil increased.

Towns that saw value in this type of consolidation took part. Some later chose to withdraw from their SAD.

The Sinclair Act did not force towns to consolidate as the latest school law does. Currently towns that choose not to participate will be denied state funds for educating their children. These towns will be forced to raise property taxes for this purpose. The state will choose not to honor its obligation to fund 55 percent of the costs of helping to educate these town’s students. (Actually, of course, they have never truly met this standard.)

Whether or not consolidation saves tax dollars or improves education is not the real reason behind this law. It is likely consolidation, by itself, will neither create tax savings nor improve education. Just as with the Sinclair Law, the state will likely have to go to great expense to actually get LD 499 to meet its goals.

Douglas Ludewig, Monmouth

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