The collective action of Maine’s 10 public charter schools and their supporters led to a decisive win this week in the Pine Tree state with the defeat of bill LD604 that created a far-ranging threat to how charter schools would operate.
The bill, as originally drafted, would have effectively cut off expansion of charter schools beyond a home campus and altered the flow of funding. In essence, this would have exposed charter schools to separate and unfair scrutiny and created a dynamic in which charter schools would be subject to shifting political sands.
During the committee’s working session this week, the sponsor of the bill, Portland Representative Michael Brennan, immediately offered an amendment that eliminated both provisions of the bill. As a result, the bill effectively became a resolve directing the Department of Education and Maine Education Policy Research Institute to study funding strategies and reporting protocols for charter schools across the United States. The amendment seeks to better understand how charter schools are funded throughout the country and what best practices for reporting exist in various states.
The combination of effective and emotionally appealing public testimony at the education committee’s public hearing and a flood of emails and phone calls resulted in the win. Charter school students, parents, teachers, leaders, and other supporters reminded state lawmakers that charter schools are an important part of the public-school ecosystem and that our families and students love their schools. Luckily, state lawmakers listened.
The National Alliance looks forward to continuing to work with the state’s charter community to advocate proactively—to tell the story of how Maine’s public charter schools meet the diverse needs and aspirations of their students and to push positive legislation that makes it possible to serve more students.
Congratulations to the charter school community in Maine on mounting a tremendously thoughtful and influential campaign that resulted in the preservation of the small but critically needed initiative.
Bill Phillips is the vice president of state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.