2017-09-29 / Letters

Work together to find educational efficiencies

To the editor:

As mothers who have raised or are raising 10 public school students, we place a high value on public education. As legislators, we voted to approve an unprecedented $162 million increase in education funding.

Unfortunately, high property value communities like ours do not reap the benefit of receiving more funds because, like many other coastal districts, we have become a minimum receiver.

Maine’s formula is based on a fair and equitable education model known as Essential

Programs and Services (EPS) that supports every child, no matter where they live.

Encouragingly, Maine students rank close to the top third nationally on school proficiency.

The complexities of the progressive school funding formula involve evaluating a community’s ability to raise its own tax revenue. Its major factors are:

 property value

 student population trend

 state-approved debt

 and free and reduced lunch population.

With so many variables, trying to compare Scarborough to similar districts can be difficult. Taxable property value is key: Scarborough – with a population of 20,000, is valued at half of the city of Portland - population of 65,000.

Scarborough is a model of economic success. Scarborough’s property value increased by $100 million in one year – and is going strong. Meanwhile, Scarborough’s school age population is decreasing. We have low numbers of students on free and reduced lunch, and we retired all of our state-approved debt.

Scarborough’s valuation is $3,679,566,666 or $1.23 million per pupil, twice the state average of $600,000. We even surpassed Cape Elizabeth at $1.08 million. Yet, Scarborough spends more per pupil than many other towns – well above the state’s EPS benchmark. Interestingly, about 10 years ago Scarborough was delivering an excellent education while spending below the state’s expectation.

Maine’s funding formula was independently evaluated in 2013 and was deemed one of the fairest formulas in the country.

Introducing legislation to adjust funding so property-wealthy districts like Scarborough receive more funds to the detriment of poorer districts is not legislation that legislators statewide will ever support. Some may even consider it immoral.

The voters have spoken in Scarborough. Let’s work together to find efficiencies across our entire community so that we have a school system and a town government we all can afford.

Sen. Amy Volk, Rep. Heather Sirocki
and Rep. Karen Vachon

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