Gov. LePage’s Budget Would Undermine Public Education

We can be proud of Maine’s many shared values.  One of our top priorities is the education of our children.  Striving to make our public schools the best they can be should be a top priority.  Our children are the future of this state and we can only ensure their prosperity if we invest in their education. 

Strengthening Maine’s public schools is a top priority for our state.  Maine’s schools are limited in their resources and need a boost.

But Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget would significantly undermine public education in Maine.  If passed, his budget would cut nearly $40 million in school funding.  These cuts are unacceptable and not what any Mainer wants.

The governor through budget gimmicks says he is “flat-funding” education. That is simply not the case. Your superintendent and school board will tell you so. Even if schools were flat-funded, schools have to cover rising costs such as heating oil, gas for buses and health insurance for employees.

Many communities stand to lose money under the governor’s budget. Eastport, for example, would lose nearly $34,000 in state education funding. Machias, meanwhile, is facing a loss of more than $140,000.

The governor wants to push the costs of teacher retirement to school districts.  These costs will be a new and heavy burden on local districts and municipalities that will require towns to come up with millions of additional dollars.

If these costs are shifted to local school districts, municipalities will have no choice but to cut services that are vital to our students and towns or increase taxes on middle-class property owners.  Many families in Maine are working hard just to make ends meet. It’s unfair to expect them to make up these costs.

We should be making our classrooms the best learning environment they can be.  This is not the time to divert even more money away from our public schools.  We must provide our teachers and schools with the tools necessary to give our children the best possible education.

These cuts to education are part of a larger tax shift of $425 million to local communities in the governor’s biennial budget. In Lubec, for example, the governor’s budget is expected to result in a $290 property tax bill increase for a home valued at $100,000, when the owner is under 65, according to an analysis by the Maine Municipal Association.

Communities will be forced to cut services and educational programming or hike property taxes to deal with this burden imposed by the governor’s budget. Most likely, municipalities will have to do both. 

It is time that we balance a budget that is fair and responsible, not a budget balanced on the backs of Maine’s middle class. 

Please join us in calling on the governor to propose fresh ideas that move our state forward.

Rep. Katherine Cassidy, D-Lubec, is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives. Steve Knowles lives in Alexander and is a teacher at WHS.