An emergency change to state policies that would have required school districts to pay more for out-of-district special education programs was withdrawn early Thursday morning, less than a week after the proposal was announced.

School districts only pay special purpose private schools for the days students are in attendance. The rule change would have required school districts to pay for all days that instruction was provided, regardless of whether the student was present.

According to the Maine Department of Education, which proposed the change, the current funding structure is “causing those schools to limit or cease operations, leaving some of Maine’s most significantly impacted children without the educational placements they are entitled to by law.”

Special purpose private schools should not be penalized when a student is unable to attend, because the school must have staff and supports available for the student every day of the school year, the department argued in an online memo.

The Department of Education published the memo March 24, noting that, due to the urgency of the change, the period for comment would last just 10 days, and no public hearing would be held.

The anticipated date of adoption was April 10, a time when most school boards are either approving or making final changes to their proposed budgets. If it were adopted, the new rule would have gone into effect immediately.


At a School Committee meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Jake Langlais expressed significant concerns for the financial impact of the proposed rule change.

By his calculations, it would add between $800,000 and $1.5 million to Lewiston’s already tight budget.

School Committee members are considering $4 million in cuts to help offset a $7.8 million shortfall from their initial $105.7 million spending plan.

“I don’t know how we do that,” Langlais said. “This is such an irresponsible amount of timing, the number is not rational. The cost to districts is not even something I could fathom last night.”

“Having (learned about that) last night with a 10-day window is unimaginable,” he said. “It is a very real, very scary thing if they make this rule change.”

Other superintendents have shared similar sentiments with the state, he said.

Asked why the proposed change was pulled, Director of Communications Marcus Mrowka wrote that the Department of Education is gathering more data.

Langlais said he is concerned that the emergency rule change could be brought forward again during this budget cycle.

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