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MACS Newsletter - MARCH 2007

1. MACS will meet on Wednesday, March 14.

Please join us from 5-7 pm at the Mediation Center, 11 King Street, Augusta. Agenda items will include discussion of the items below. FMI and directions, please call Judith Jones, 763-3576.

2. Report on the Hall of Flags forum 2/27/07

Over a dozen groups provided displays illustrating the theme of "Expanding public education options to meet the diverse learning needs of Maine children". We filled the formal, high-ceilinged, tall-windowed space with people and displays, snacks and beverages -- which always attract the legislators. About 200 people came through, and we talked with about 40 legislators. Many either confirmed their support for public school options or indicated a willingness to learn about them.

We also showed a wonderful video on public school choice just created by a charter school teacher from Florida who now lives and teaches in Maine. We provided information about groups interested in starting charter public schools, and about resources for rural schools in Maine. Representatives of two NH charter schools explained their programs, and we displayed the NH Dept of Education’s new report on "Public School Choice in NH."

3. LD 272, “Charter Programs”

Representative Boyd Marley, Special Education teacher and Democrat from South Portland, has introduced a bill to allow “charter programs” in Maine. We have begun meeting with Rep. Marley, and hope to suggest ways the bill could be crafted to make Maine eligible for the Federal Charter School Grant Program.

4. Proposals for consolidation, collaboration and regionalization

As we follow the Education Committee’s work, and then that of the Appropriations Committee, we try to remind legislators that long-term cost-effectiveness in education will be enhanced by promoting public education options and allowing parents to choose among those options. That options and choice will provide new incentives for all public schools to improve quality and keep administrative costs down. And that these inventives will be far more effective over time than just changing the size or number of districts, especially if districts continue to assign students and to control the use of all public education dollars.

NOW and in the coming weeks, if you would like the Legislature to expand public school options, be sure to write, call, fax or email the members of these committees and your representatives. They are influenced by the members of the

professional organizations who attend the work sessions - parents and citizens need to make their own voices heard!

Need more ammunition? Here are some recent notes:

* Funding children means leaving more decisions to schools --

Governor Mark Sanford calls it “backpacking.” “I think the most important reason to shift our education funding to a weighted pupil formula is to provide equity.”

Cindi Ross Scoppe, The South Carolina State, 2/13/07

* The New Hampshire DOE has just published, "Public School Choice in New Hampshire," in which Commissioner Lyonel Tracy states, "Opportunties for public school choice have been growing quietly in New Hampshire. More and more districts are grasping the fact that one size does not fit all students. New Hampshire has changed the rules, giving families greater choice in educational opportunities and allowing a personalized learning experience for each student..."

* In the Feb. 14 edition of Education Week, see "Experimenting With School Choice: A Tale of Two California Districts." Oakland and Compton, "comparable in many respects, are opting for completely different approaches to fixing their schools. And so far, Oakland's policy of giving parents more choice is showing far more success than Compton's strategy of micromanaging classrooms.... Oakland is beginning to break away from this history (of poor performance), and the reason is the weighted-student-formula program it embraced some years ago. Under this program, kids are not required to attend their neighborhood school... They can pick any regular public or public charter school in their district and take their education dollars with them... The revenues are weighted based on the difficulty of educating each student... Schools have to compete for funding, but the upside is that they have total control over it." (p. 30)

FMI, and links to legislative websites, please visit the MACS website, www.mainecharterschools.org.

5. Coming Attractions

* March 14, MACS meeting, 5-7 pm, Mediation Center, 11 King St, Augusta.

* National Charter Schools Conference, April 23-27, Albuquerque, NM. FMI,  www.publiccharters.org.

* National Charter Schools Week, April 30 - May 4. FMI, www.publiccharters.org.

* Kids Law 2007, May 17, 8:30 am to 4 pm, Augusta Civic Center. Multi-disciplinary panels will address: special education, at-risk students, truancy, enrollment issues, school removals through suspensions and expulsions. FMI, www.kidslegal.org.

* UMaine workshops on at-risk students and alternative education, July 23 & 24, UMaine Orono. FMI, www.umaine.edu/issar.

* Education Law Conference, July 24-27, USM, Portland, FMI, www.edlaw.org.

 

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To contact MACS: macs@mainecharterschools.org