District Consolidation and the Threat to School Choice: 15 Reorganization Plans to Watch
Read full report | As The Maine Heritage Policy Center reported in a recent policy brief titled Reorganization and the Threat to Maine’s Tradition of School Choice, opportunities for families to choose the schools their children attend are in danger as a result of the ongoing school district consolidation effort. For generations, students in many Maine communities have been allowed to choose the school they attend under the state’s “town tuitioning” program. The competition between schools that has resulted from these opportunities for school choice has been proven to result in higher quality schools and improved student outcomes. Unfortunately, the current school district consolidation effort has put these choice options at risk and has already resulted in the loss of school choice options in four of the towns that now comprise the very first regionalized school district, RSU 1 in Bath.
While opportunities for school choice exist in towns across Maine, the specific areas of the state where choice is most threatened have become more apparent as updated reorganization plans continue to be submitted to the state Department of Education. There are communities like Pownal and Durham, for instance, that have proposed to eliminate school choice entirely. Others, such as Carmel and Levant, plan to end waiver programs that have allowed for school choice options in the past. Raymond continues to debate whether or not to keep school choice at all as it looks to attract a consolidation partner.
The consolidation proposals involving these towns are but three of the fifteen merger plans deserving more careful scrutiny by school choice supporters. In assembling the following list, we first identified those school districts where choice is available and widely practiced, and then reviewed the reorganization proposals involving those districts. Merger plans have yet to be authored in some and are near completion in others, but, as these communities provide some of the best opportunities for school choice in the state, consolidation developments in each should be watched closely.
Will the opportunities for school choice that Maine students have enjoyed for generations continue as district consolidation efforts move forward, or will those opportunities be lost? The answer depends to a large degree on what happens with the following fifteen merger proposals. Merger plans are to go before voters within a few months.