Our Stories

Submit your stories here.

Janet Winchester, Etna - Loss of local control for SAD 38 students means the loss of school choice for our high school students. Before consolidation, our students had the choice of attending any accredited high school in the state including 3 of the top performing high schools that are located within a 20 min. drive of our district. After consolidating with SAD 48 to form RSU 19, our students are forced to attend Nokomis High school, one of the lowest performing high schools in the state and has been at the bottom for many years.

Mary Stanton, Acton - Back a few years ago, we formed a committee to look at who Acton could partner. Our neighboring towns were quick to put in their own RSU plans or alternative plans to stand alone. These were approved by the commissioner Sue Gendron.  That left us to look at other York County schools who were left out of the RSUs being formed. One was Wells/Ogunquit another was Kittery.  Kittery was able to put in an alternative plan as the student population was lowered to accommodate them.  Acton continued with their due diligence and tried to form an AOS with Wells/Ogunquit.  The result: all three towns voted the AOS down.  Afterwards, Wells/Ogunquit was allowed to enter their alternative plan and it passed by Sue Gendron. That was good for Wells/Ogunquit but guess what. Acton is now surrounded by approved RSUs, AOSs and alternative plans and we have no options left (New Hampshire is our western neighbor).  This law never took into account a town like ours where the commissioner approved all of its neighbors' plans and left a town in a "hole." Now we will be penalized for something we didn't cause or want to happen. I call what happened to us an "unintentional consequence" probably because this law was shoved into a bill and passed in the middle of the night.

Betsy Clemens Saltonstall, Rockport - If the reorganization law is not repealed, the Five Towns (Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport) incur substantial financial loss whether or not the districts reorganize. Upon reorganization the Five Towns face loss of state subsidy – most recently estimated at $376,000 – and potential employee salary increases exceeding $420,000; if the districts fail to reorganize they pay penalties estimated to be approximately $604,000.

Selectmen of East Machias -

Five Reasons for Repealing Maine’s School Consolidation Law
  • Does everyone have to consolidate? No. Maine’s largest school districts, island schools, Indian education and schools in the Unorganized Territories don’t have to partner up with anybody
  • Is consolidation right for everyone? No. Maine has approximately 220 school districts and 490 municipalities, each of which has their own identity. Mixing and matching may be fine for some areas, but one size does not fit all.
  • Was it right for the State to hold a “gun” to the voters’ heads and say if you don’t vote our way than we will fine you? No. Mainers are smart enough to weigh the positives and negatives of consolidation on their own. Fines and penalties, which total $5 million statewide, are nothing more than bullying tactics.
  • How many tax dollars have been wasted by the Department of Education on this flawed law? An estimated $4 million dollars and that doesn’t count how much towns have spent in manpower and money trying to make this law work.
  • If it doesn’t work, can we escape or are we captives of a new bureaucracy? Once you’re in an AOS/RSU, you’re in. There is no way out of school consolidation. And the DOE fought tooth and nail against bills which would have let people opt out. Why would you ever want to be in something without an escape clause? It’s bad business. It’s bad policy. It’s bad for Maine students.
The law, in essence, creates bigger government and that always translates into increased cost and loss of local say.

Savings can be achieved at the local and state levels by cost-sharing administration without consolidation. Many areas across the state were already consolidating before this mandate came down, or have done son on their own since. Thus, each town maintains local control and each town “pays its own way.”

For those who have already formed an AOS/RSU and wish to stay an AOS/RSU, all legislators have to do is craft a bill changing RSUs to SADs or AOSs to unions. Better yet, let each district VOTE whether they want to consolidate or not. It’s democratic. It’s ethical. And it’s the best way to create common sense solutions.

Selectmen, Town of East Machias
      Kenneth “Bucket” Davis
      Dale Richardson
      Will Tuell

Phil St. Onge, Winslow - This poorly conceived and even more poorly implemented law has NEVER been supported by anyone without financial disincentives attached. It only was passed in the legislature due to the $36 million in "savings" already embedded in the budget. Once passed (reluctantly) by the legislature, individual communities agreed to consolidate only when faced with onerous penalties.
It seems that a law dealing with the education of our children should be able to stand on its own without the non-germane financial disincentives this law has attached to it.

Five-Town district backs repeal proclamation

The Five Town CSD school board has voted to adopt a proclamation supporting repeal of the school consolidation law on Nov. 3 – a grassroots approach it is urging other districts to take.

The vote of the CSD, based in Camden, was unanimous. A group of citizens is raising money to get the proclamation printed in the local paper.

Board member Betsy Saltonstall, who worked on the proclamation, said it is important that boards opposed to the consolidation law urge residents to get out and vote yes on Question 3.

“The law penalizes some communities that voted not to consolidate, and exempts others. It simply isn’t fair,” Saltonstall said.

“To make matters worse, the $5 million in penalties on those communities will hit next year when state aid to schools is being drastically cut. We need to repeal this law before it does irreparable harm to schools, particularly in smaller towns,” she said.

Five Town CSD includes Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport, which face $604,000 in penalties for rejecting the consolidation mandate.

Saltonstall is encouraging other boards and communities to adopt similar proclamations because she believes the campaign will be won at the grassroots level.

The proclamation cites multiple problems with the law including:

• The school consolidation law is a rigid mandate that lacks flexibility needed for districts to find real cost savings, regardless of size or location.

• The Legislature did not recognize voluntary cooperation among districts as a legal alternative to mandated consolidation.

• 65 districts, representing 55 percent of the state’s enrollment, were exempt from consolidation based on size, location or other special dispensations. Of the others, 106 communities rejected consolidation.

• Despite a goal of reducing the state’s 290 districts to 80, 218 remain because the people of Maine have rejected the consolidation mandate.

• Mandatory consolidation has actually increased costs in some schools and municipalities, increasing property taxes by as much as 25%.

• The law already has cost the state an estimated $4 million to implement, but the Department of Education says it’s too soon to quantify any real savings at the local level.

• Any cost savings that are finally achieved will be eaten up in many districts by the need to level teacher pay scales.

• Communities that voted against consolidation face $5 million in penalties next year for exercising their rights at the ballot box.

• Repealing the law will give districts that have reorganized the opportunity to reconsider, and redress unforeseen negative consequences.

• The spirit of finding a better way is the Maine tradition, and repealing the school consolidation law will give districts the flexibility to work together through voluntary cooperatives for the benefit of communities and the children they serve.






Jerry T. White, SAD 31 (Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Lowell, Maxfield, Passadumkeag and Sebois Plantation) - In MSAD #31 the residents correctly saw the lack of benefits for consolidating. The move would have cost every member town more money, Administrative costs would have increased dramatically as you would need two or three of everyone. There would be not a penny saved from transporting students since we have reduced the number of bus runs and consolidated others with no drop in service. As a matter of fact, we have better service for students today versus 4 years ago. The idea was published in January, 1997 by the subcommittee formed for that purpose by the State Board of Education and Gov King rightly saw the impossibility of implementing the plan put forth by the then State Board Chair-Jim Rier. A copy of the MSBE Subcommittee on School Consolidation is a public document and available from the MDOE

All of us could spend many lines on the poor execution and poor legislation.

We need to make sure our supporters come to the polls to vote or get their absentee ballot by mail or at your local town office for this election

from Dirigo Blue, Oct. 1, 2009 by Gerald Weinand

Elizabeth Mitchell, Senate President and Candidate for Governor: There is no question that we need to cut the cost of administration in school districts and put more money into the classroom. However, the implementation of school consolidation has created too many problems in too many places. As a result of the law, many towns have seen their property taxes increase and districts created that make little sense for students and their families. I voted to repeal the consolidation law so we can work through the legislative process to craft a system that rewards streamlining administration and cost savings but in a workable manner. We all know that the status quo is not acceptable and we need to focus on the quality of our education. Should the voters repeal the current consolidation law, the legislature should allow districts that consolidated continue in their new form.  All districts should be given appropriate incentives to share resources and to focus resources on classrooms and good student outcomes.

Robert Webster, Blue HillThe consolidation law should be repealed. A “yes” vote on Question #3 will restore fairness to the organization of school systems in Maine. Mandated consolidation does not work for rural areas. People throughout Maine should recognize and honor the votes of over 200 communities that rejected consolidation.  Large school systems will not meet the needs of eastern and northern Maine.

The consolidation law has been inconsistently applied and sometimes unfairly interpreted and implemented by the Commissioner of Education.

  • Maine laws since 1897 have always included a method for towns not well served by a school district or school union to withdraw. As interpreted by the Commissioner in 2007 and 2008 consolidation plans were not allowed to include withdrawal provisions in the proposed consolidation plans – even though the consolidation law was silent on this matter. Yet in 2009 the town of Allagash was allowed to include a withdrawal provision in its consolidation plan with Ft. Kent.
  • Schools systems exempt from consolidation (those with 2,500 or more students and the off shore islands) were required to submit plans to the Dept. of Education on how savings would be found in administration, special education and transportation. Exempt schools filed these plans. NONE of the exempt schools were required to implement any of those savings plans.
  • School systems with 1,200 up to 2,500 students were among the school systems required to create and vote on consolidation plans. School units of this size that voted down their plans were let off the “penalty” hook by the Commissioner. No penalties were imposed for these “middle size” districts. School systems with fewer than 1,200 students will suffer subsidy penalties in July of 2010.
  • The Commissioner rejected consolidation plans that did not find savings. Consolidation planning committees were told to list savings even if there were none. The Blue Hill-Deer Isle area consolidation plan was rejected twice by DOE and only approved on a third attempt after “savings” were included for subsidy that would be lost due to the subsidy penalty built into the law. Some communities that voted to consolidate felt “bullied” into it.
A “yes” vote on Question #3 will restore our liberty and freedom.  Maine citizens should be able to organize local schools in ways that make sense to us – without the threat of financial coercion from Augusta and the Maine Dept. of Education. Repeal will re-establish the local authority of Maine towns and cities to organize local schools in the best interests of our own children. The consolidation law curtailed our freedom. Repeal will restore our freedom.

Derek Viger of the augustainsider.us
Repeal School Consolidation NOW
Reprinted with permission of the Author
Numbers don’t say much by themselves. People can take a set of numbers and tell a story. Those who want to keep the current school consolidation law want to tell you a story. They want to tell you consolidation is working. 85% of Maine students are in districts already in compliance with consolidation law. A repeal of consolidation law will cost taxpayers $37 million every year, supporters say. Consolidation supporters want to construct a story around those numbers to scare you into believing a repeal will cause more programs to be slashed. When you look at the truth behind their we find their story is flawed.  School consolidation has not worked and must be repealed.

The 85% in compliance number is not something consolidation proponents plucked from thin air. That is true, but when you break that down it doesn’t look so nice. As of June 2009, there were 217 school districts in Maine. Of the 85% in compliance the overwhelming majority of districts, 57% were given exemptions. Most were exempted because of their size or because they were island or tribal districts. 11 districts were given exemptions after failed reorganization attempts and 3 others argued for exemption as “high performing districts”. Should these be counted as success stories? Certainly not. They FAILED to reorganize. Towns with clout like Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, and Yarmouth were able to maneuver out of having to reorganize. Only 26 new districts were actually formed. How can we ask the supposed non-compliant districts to reorganize or face penalties when the state has already shown they are willing to just give out passes to the big players. Does that sound like a good policy to you?

The $37 million cost to taxpayers was a figure the Maine Legislature was informed school consolidation would save state and local communities. That cost would rise because the 123rd Legislature already cut that amount from General Purpose Aid based on those predicted savings. This was no savings at all. Nothing in the law assures any savings. There was just a cut in state spending based on a prediction. Who will pick up the slack? Local communities. No on 3 says a repeal will increase property taxes. Taxes will be increased BECAUSE of current school consolidation laws. Some communities that have consolidated are seeing property tax increases already: Pownal 25%, Durham 19%, Alna 33%. The loss of GPA funding is really putting a crunch on the towns that can least afford it. Current school consolidation efforts are a cost shift, not a cost reduction.

It must also be noted, Governor Baldacci pushed school consolidation from being an education policy issue to a fiscal issue with the suggestion that $37 million could be saved. By using the false savings carrot on an poorly conceived bill Baldacci embedded school consolidation policy in the budget where policy issues were necessarily secondary to the huge hole that would have remained if the policy turned out to be wrong. This was done without any testing by reorganizing a few districts to see if these savings claims would hold up. Despite all of this, Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said the $37 million would not disappear if consolidation was repealed. To keep the budget balanced the DoE is prepared to add a supplement to the budget, which would then need to be approved by the legislature.

This is why so many communities said no. They were given a bill that supposedly saved them money. Communities realized there were no real savings, but a cost increase. A bill meant to save money on education that in effect costs more money is a failure.

A few have hoped that we can continue patching this bill and make consolidation work. I am a proponent of consolidation – just not this bill. Consolidation, if done right, can save Maine school districts money. This plan however is a hydra. The we try to deal with it the worse it will get. The law is too restrictive to begin with. The current school consolidation is bristling with penalties for non-compliance. Again how can some wealthy communities be given an exemption while less fortunate towns get slapped with fines? What can you do if your reorganized union is not working out? SADs had a method for backing out. The new RSUs don’t. If you want to for an RSU smaller than the minimum you can’t. Commissioner Gendron said she was approached with some of these requests, but under the current law had to reject them.

This is just what we started with. You can look at all of the legislation proposed on consolidation this year here. “Give them more time” proponents of current consolidation law will tell you, “they’ll get it right.” How much more time should we give them? I say no more.

Consolidation has worked out well for some districts. The union of MSAD 21, 39, 43, and Hanover in the Dixfield Rumford area has gone well. House Majority Whip Representative  Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) reports that RSU 2 in his district is also one of the exceptions. Rep. Berry has, however, categorized the consolidation bill as poorly executed. “What I have found,” Rep. Berry said, “is that positive reforms are best accomplished by providing incentives, clear targets, and a plan for short-term costs. I don’t believe we provided any of these adequately when the law was first passed.” Rep. Berry said that he preferred to allocate less money for administration and let local districts work out their own cuts.

Rep. Berry has also said he is committed to allowing successful RSUs to stand should consolidation be repealed. I agree, who wouldn’t. This will make the transition back a smooth one. As stated earlier, most districts were exempt so they won’t be affected by a repeal. If you like your RSU and decide to stay you won’t be affected. Commissioner Gendron said that some legislation would be proposed if consolidation is repealed that would transform them into SADs. This would allow districts to withdraw from a union that wasn’t working.

Even if you live in an area exempt from consolidation you should support the repeal. Even if you are happy in your new RSU you should support the repeal. Consolidation is hurting the communities who can least afford it. The cost of education is not being reduced: it is being shifted from state to local communities. The current $37 million savings will not disappear if consolidation is repealed. Successful RSUs will not be disbanded if consolidation is repealed. The sky will not fall. We must stand up and say this plan has not worked. It is ham-fisted, forceful and restrictive. There are better alternatives that can’t be reached from where we stand now.

Let’s start over and create a sensible plan that will work for everyone. Please vote Yes on question 3 and repeal school consolidation.