AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Gov. LePage is asking Mainers to get behind his plan to eliminate most of the school superintendents in our state and to regionalize school districts.
"The cost of education in Maine is going through the roof," he said on Tuesday. His $6.8 billion budget proposal includes about $991 million for public schools. LePage says more of it should b going to pay for students in the classrooms and less on administration.
"Frankly, I don't think in the state of Maine that you need more than 16 superintendents," he said.
The governor's solution is to incentivize regionalization and to eliminate most of the state's superintendents by supporting legislation that would create 12 regional Maine school management centers that provide services like payroll, transportation, nutrition and professional development at a lower cost.
Gov. LePage also wants to set aside $11 million in incentives for districts to regionalize. He says some superintendents are already doing this, like Bangor School Department superintendent Betsy Webb, who has regionalized special education services with surrounding districts, a plan that could save more than $3 million over five years.
"She gets it. She is one of the good ones out of the 148," the governor said. "I'm told about 30 good ones 30 bad ones and the rest are mediocre."
Not everyone shares the governor's vision. The Maine Education Association (MEA) believes his planned cuts go too far.
"To expect one superintendent to be able to oversee … some of those areas as big as Rhode Island … do you think one superintendent would be able to meet the needs of students?" said MEA President Lois Kilby-Chesley. "I don't see that working."
The MEA rallied outside the State House with teachers and students urging the governor to obey the will of the people and to not meddle with the 3 percent tax on Mainers earning $200,000 or more to fund education. Voters approved that tax at the polls last November, but the governor wants to do away with that tax and insists it is driving people out of Maine.
"I've seen them doctors and scientists, engineers, actually some lawyers, believe it or not, are leaving and they're going to New Hampshire to live," the governor said.
But Kilby-Chesley says that statement doesn't reflect what they've been seeing or hearing.
"Maybe his friends are exiting the state but the people we're hearing from are saying they're staying right here because of the quality of life in Maine," she said.