PARIS — Members of a blue-ribbon commission on education reform in Maine agreed this week that promoting creativity in education is essential to the success of many students.

The Commission to Reform Public Education Funding and Improve Student Performance in Maine met at the School Administrative District 17 administration offices Monday morning to continue its work.

“This is a chance for us to recommend fundamental changes in the way we approach school,” Commission Chairman Bob Hasson of the Department of Education told members, including SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts, who hosted the meeting.

Among the two dozen or so attending in addition to commission members were legislators and representatives from public and technical schools and the community college system.

The 15-member commission was created by the Legislature, which allocated an additional $15 million in education funding for local schools, bringing the state’s contribution to $1 billion for the 2016-17 school year. The legislation also  mandated the group to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature by Jan. 10, 2017.

“We really are not inhibited,” Hasson said. “Now’s our chance. I know the politics are live but so is the opportunity to move smartly and Maine-like  so we can make things better for kids.”

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Topics ranged from providing creativity in education to the soaring costs of education and regionalization of special education services.

In a video of a 2006 “Ted Talk” by Ken Robinson, he made the case for nurturing creativity in students and acknowledging different ways to learn.

The commission members were asked to pair off and talk about the video and then reconvene to discuss their views. Comments included the need for more creative arts when time and money allows, and the arts can engage certain students better than academics and counter potential failures.

A presentation by Susan Beaudoin from the Department of Education reported declining student population statewide but a significant rise in the cost of education over the past 10 years.

That drew questions from commission members about local taxpayers’ share of the cost.

“We’re hearing the state has dramatically increased its share but I’m really seeing the local taxpayers’ share has dramatically increased,” Colpitts said.

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He looked at a spreadsheet Beaudoin presented that showed a 46 percent increase in the cost of special education and a $350 million overall increase over 10 years.

Commissioners agreed that education has changed in 15 years and to guess how it will change in the following years is not easy.

The next commission meeting is Monday, Oct. 17, at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, 156 East Ave., Lewiston.

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