A Floor or a Ceiling? A Brief History of the Essential Programs and Services Model


Read the full report | In January of this year, Maine’s State Planning Office released its annual “LD1 Progress Report,” which found that Maine’s school districts had demonstrated a high level of “divergence” from the expenditure targets set by LD 1. Eighty-eight percent of the school districts reviewed in the study exceeded their LD 1 budget cap for the 2008-2009 school year, spending a total of $220 million more than the state’s funding model said they should. Worse still, the report found that compared to the previous year, “both the percentage of school units exceeding their limit and the amount by which they were over has increased.”

In response to this trend, a kind of revisionist history has taken hold in Augusta. Rather than express concern over the extent to which the LD 1 spending caps are being ignored, a number of state policymakers now describe the LD 1 caps as representing the “minimum” amount necessary to fund schools, not an adequate or sufficient amount. The spending cap amounts are now characterized by some as being a “floor” rather than a “ceiling.” As a consequence, the fact that most of Maine’s school districts are spending well over their LD 1 caps is not looked upon by policymakers as a cause for concern.

So which is it? Were the LD 1 caps intended to represent the bare minimum that schools should spend, or an adequate amount, under which schools are sufficiently funded to achieve the state’s Learning Results?

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