Published: Portland Press Herald:
Governor John Baldacci should be commended for his stewardship of Maine’s K-12 Educational System. That is, until the point when Local Schools, Regional Support (LSRS) entered his thinking and then his legislative agenda.
Maine currently spends more than the National Average per student, K-12 ($10,145 to $8248). The Brookings Institute terms this an “unusually high expenditure” that contributes to high taxes. Any Mainer knows that taxes here are high. But at least where education is concerned, we’re getting what we pay for.
Maine students are excelling. According to Morgan Quitno, a comparative research and publishing company, Maine K-12 students rank 5th in the nation based on an analysis of 21 educational factors. The Center for Applied Economic Research at Montana State University-Billings places Maine students 1st in its Educational Output Study, which rates performance in NEAP and ACT testing. “Local Schools, Local Support” seems to work well.
Education Commissioner Susan Gendron has stated that the LSRS initiative is modeled after plans currently in place in Arkansas, Maryland, and Delaware. How do these states fall in the above rankings? Not so great. In Morgan Quitno’s listings, Maryland is 18th, Delaware 28th, and Arkansas 32nd. The University of Montana’s study finds Maryland 22nd, Delaware 27th, and Arkansas 33rd, all trailing first-ranked Maine.
Certainly, credit must go to hard-working teachers and students. But perhaps there is something to our current system. Who knows the needs of individual communities better than those living there? Bangor High graduate Governor Baldacci should be able to answer that one.