Why the School District Consolidation Law Fails

No one disputes the need to eliminate unnecessary and redundant administrative expenses in education, but the law that promised savings by mandating the formation of fewer, larger school districts has failed in achieving its goals. What Maine needs is informed decision making by the stakeholders, not bigger governmental units posing as school districts and throwing up obstacles to efficient municipal operations.  
    • There are unintended financial consequences: cost shifting that places greater financial burden on some towns in the new district, cost of unified employment contracts, cost of ramping up administration of larger districts, and the loss of eligibility for Federal funding programs.
    • There are no cost savings. When the State booked a $36.5 million cut in General Purpose Aid to the previous biennial budget, it was not a guarantee of savings, but merely a cut in State aid to schools.  There is nothing in the law that creates a savings; it is technically a shift in spending from State to local, with the local option to ante up or cut whatever makes sense on the local level. 
    • There is a cost to consolidation for many districts. 132 out of the current 218 districts voted down proposed plans because of the cost. Some towns that consolidated discovered after the fact that their taxes would increase dramatically. Examples are Pownal up 25% and Alna up 33%.
    • Communities that voted against consolidation face $5 million in penalties next year for exercising their rights at the ballot box - an unethical practice in a democracy. These plans were voted down for the most part because their costs exceeded the penalty amounts.
    • Loss of local control was an issue for voters who did not want to give up their local school boards and accept token representation in a larger district.
    • No provision to withdraw from a new school unit.