Maine State Senator Peter Mills





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Summary of "An Act to Increase Efficiency in School Administration"
A Concept Draft presented by Senator Peter Mills

Sources

On July 1, 2007, each school unit shall join one of 22 state chartered Educational Cooperatives ("Co-ops") to contract for the delivery of regional services. These entities are described in depth by the Maine Heritage Policy Center in "The Maine View" issue of January 25, 2007, authored by Stephen Bowen and in "A Case for Cooperation" published in August of 2006 by the Maine Children's Alliance and authored by Douglas Rooks. The beginnings of such an entity are exemplified by the Western Maine Educational Collaborative formed in August of 2006 under the management of Mona Baker.

Functions of an Education Cooperative

As envisioned here, each Co-op will be state chartered. Participation will be required for all local units including all sections of the Unorganized Territories. The geographic bounds of the Co-ops will conform to the existing 26 vocational service regions except that a Co-op shall include as many of such whole regions as necessary to serve a minimum of 3000 students.

Each Co-op shall:

1. Continue to provide strong vocational education programming, the function for which such regions were formed.
2. Adopt a common calendar for the region.
3. Assume the administration of a common Student Identification System.
4. Establish parallel accounting practices for each school district.
5. Serve as contract bargaining agent for each district.
6. Provide coordinated transportation services.
7. Oversee food services for each public school.
8. Support information technology for all schools including laptops for grades 7 through 12.
9. Coordinate and expand opportunities for regional and inter-regional instruction through ATM, Internet and other course sharing initiatives.
10. Perform central payroll.
11. Coordinate the efficient delivery of special education services.
12. Assist schools with comprehensive professional development programs.
13. Provide curriculum and assessment services as needed or requested.
14. Function as agent for large volume purchasing of goods & services.
15. Provide legal and medical support to each school.
16. Assist districts with energy and facilities management.
17. Maintain a pool of qualified substitute teachers for the region.
18. Assist districts in providing hospital and homebound instruction.
19. Provide regional enrichment programs for gifted and talented students.
20. Establish a protocol for the exercise of school choice among schools.
21. Provide high quality programs to counteract school violence and substance abuse.

Retained Authority of Local Districts

Member school districts will continue to:

1. Hire, oversee, evaluate and discharge teachers and other personnel. 2. Define local curriculum, assessment and professional development practices. 3. Determine the location and levels of support for individual schools. 4. Manage local budgets subject to assessments for regional services. 5. Substitute local services for those optionally offered by the Co-op if the local district can provide them more effectively or at lesser cost. 6. Provide governance to the Educational Co-operatives.

This proposal will permit local districts and schools to refocus on student achievement. Freed from the burdens of business management, districts may better manage the core function of schools: education and instruction.

Governance and Structure

Each Co-op will be governed by a board with proportional representation from each member school board. Local school districts will support services provided by the Co-op through capitated fees, contracts, monetary assessments or other methods agreed to by member districts. A local district aggrieved by a cost apportionment decision of the Co-op will have a right of appeal to the State Board which may, as necessary, issue substantive rules governing such issues.

Implementation

Co-ops will be created immediately by this bill. Each of them may hire a director and begin planning in the summer of 2007. This will provide a year's lead time before they begin to deliver services on July 1, 2008.

Because each Co-op will be managed by existing public entities (the member districts), there is no delay for elections, for the assumption or allocation of public debt, or for the transfer of buildings and other assets. Interim funding of Co-ops through June 30, 2008, will be supported by a capitated contribution from the state of $100 per student. As soon as formed, each Co-op may supplement its state appropriation through assessing its members if they vote to do so.

Supplementary Provisions

By July 1, 2008, all municipalities must be members of a school district containing at least 1200 students. Isolated small districts, not contiguous to another, may retain their present governance. School unions are abolished. Each Unorganized Territory will be assigned to a nearby or adjoining district.

By August 1, 2007, the Commissioner will present to each Co-op a suggested district merger plan for local approval. Merger plans will be presented back to the Legislature in January of 2008. For good cause shown, a merger may be delayed beyond July 1, 2008, but a plan must then be in place.

The bill lengthens the school year beginning in 2008 from 180 to 190 days of which 185 are for instruction. The bill amends the district budget format by aligning it with EPS cost categories beginning July 1, 2008. For districts that must merge, no new employment contracts extending beyond June 30, 2008, may be agreed to until the restructuring provisions of this bill are in place.

Peter Mills
State Senate
Somerset County
February 5, 2007