AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill on Thursday that would direct the state to work toward creating a state-run virtual charter academy, citing concerns with part of the proposal that places a moratorium on cyber schools until next year.

In his veto letter, the Republican governor said the bill aims to halt the opening of to the Maine Connections Academy, a virtual charter school that was approved Monday by the Maine Charter School Commission. The school — which is poised to open in the fall — can only serve up to 750 students, LePage said.

“But, for these few hundred students, many of them emotionally or physically unable to access a ‘brick and mortar school’ option, this school is critical,” LePage said.

The governor’s veto came just hours after the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 24-11 vote in favor of the measure. The Legislature would need two-thirds support of present and voting lawmakers in each house for the veto to be overturned.

The measure would also direct the state to work with New Hampshire to ensure Maine high school students have access its state-run Virtual Learning Academy Charter School next school year while the moratorium is in place.

Democratic Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, a co-sponsor of the measure, criticized the governor’s veto, arguing it means “limited public resources would be funneled toward a small number of students in a virtual school environment that has not yet been proven in Maine.”

“It is our responsibility as a state to ensure that public education dollars are spent as effectively as possible to the benefit of all Maine students,” he said in a statement.

Supporters of the bill say the moratorium is necessary to encourage the Department of Education to create a state-run virtual charter school that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Maine students instead of a few hundred.

“This bill offers important next steps for expanding and strengthening online learning opportunities in Maine in way that is efficient and effective,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, a Democrat and co-chair of the state’s Education Committee.

LePage also said the bill seeks to expand access to “blending learning,” in which students take both online and traditional classes — an idea he supports. But putting a moratorium on virtual charter schools does nothing to promote “blended learning,” he said.

“It merely denies hundreds of children who need it access to the best education opportunity,” he said.

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