AUGUSTA — Two members of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board testified against a bill to establish a public charter school program in Maine at a public hearing before the Legislature’s committee on education and cultural affairs May 12.
The MDIRSS board had voted unanimously May 9 to oppose the bill.
The bill would establish a commission, with members appointed by the state board of education, that could authorize charter schools operated by nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies to be set up in communities around Maine.
Each school would be governed by an independent board and would have authority over finances, personnel, scheduling, curriculum and instruction. Charter schools could focus on specific areas of study such as science and math, the arts, foreign languages, or vocational and technical training.
Parents could choose to send their children to the traditional public school in their community or to the charter school.
Brian Hubbell, chairman of the MDIRSS board, and Judy Sproule, vice chairman of the board and chairman of the Trenton school committee, told the legislative committee that charter schools would unfairly drain resources from the established public schools.
Mr. Hubbell pointed out that the bill would obligate local taxpayers to fund charter schools at the same per-pupil rate as their existing school, but they would have no say in how the school is run.
“Charters are governed by an independent board with no direct accountability to either local voters or the local taxpayers who are nonetheless obligated to finance them,” he said.