The Sun Journal obtained annual financial data for Maine school districts from the 2005-06 school year through the 2020-21 school year through a Freedom of Access Act request made to the Maine Department of Education.

Because of a 2007 law that required some school districts to consolidate in order to form regional school units, lowering the number of districts in Maine from 290 to about 160, the Sun Journal limited its analysis to the 2009-10 school year onward.

The financial data provided by the DOE showed per pupil expenditures in all budget categories, rather than total costs, which could vary vastly from district to district depending on its size.

The Sun Journal focused on three funding categories: special education, regular instruction and overall expenditures (total money spent per student in the district). The analysis then calculated the year-over-year changes to expenditures in all three categories for comparison.

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