All six public charter schools in operation in the state of Maine currently have waiting lists two years after opening.
In all, 917 students are enrolled in charter schools in the state, according to Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission. All six schools are currently boosting their enrollment, which is expected to increase the charter school population of the state to reach a few thousand students.
“There’s definitely a lot of demand out there,” Roger Brainerd, director of the Maine Association for Charter Schools, said. “No question.”
Charter school day at the state house took place on Monday this week, the first day of National School Choice Week. The event was attended by many charter school students and educators in the state, writes Christopher Cousins for The Bangor Daily News.
Because public funding for charter schools come from per-student fees, it is difficult for these schools to expand easily. Charters do not receive any state funding for expansion or upgrades, which in turn means the schools need to constantly and actively engage in private fundraising efforts.
However, a new change in funding could help charter schools grow. A bill has yet to be presented, but it is expected that Governor Paul LePage and the Department of Education will propose that charter schools in the state be considered as stand-alone school districts in terms of funding. This means that the school district the child is coming from will no longer be charged a fee. Instead, funding will come directly from the state’s general purpose aid.
“When the charter schools send out a bill and the local district has to write a check, it doesn’t create warm feelings,” Kautz said. “We would be happy to see [the new funding model] because we think it would create a more harmonious working relationship.”
The proposal is a source of concern for many, as it would use up $6 million of the $9 million in additional GPA funds.
“I am a big supporter of charter schools, but what we are overall doing is taking away from all schools for the ones going to the charter schools,” said Rep. Joyce Maker, a Republican from Calais who serves on the Education Committee. “So I would think that if we are going to do this, we need to put the additional money in.”