Reasonable and responsible

Maine’s Legislature is once again battling over education funding in order to reach a balanced budget that serves all of the state’s needs. It is a battle that needs clearer thinking.

For years, education advocates have requested ever-increasing financial commitments from citizens and from the state itself, creating the image that 55 percent of educational funding must come from the state — no matter how used. Advocates have often utilized the referendum ballot to achieve their funding goals. The public has been distracted from reality in supporting those efforts. Since 2005, legislators have increased education funding 28 percent, local spending has increased on average 27 percent, while student enrollment statewide has decreased 11 percent. Maine has 10,000 fewer students yet special education costs, administration costs, pension costs and staff support costs have escalated dramatically.

Maine is a relatively poor state. The failure to control costs in the face of decreasing educational enrollment will lead to financial ruin. It is an unsustainable path that a fourth grade math student can predict. Emotion must be removed; reasonable and responsible discussions must take place so every Maine community can have efficient, sustainable education programs, and have them now.

Investing in education should be practical, not partisan. With crunch time nigh, neither party in the Legislature can enact meaningful education funding without the other. Maine is desperate for a solution that controls costs, creates more efficiencies and plans for the future beyond this year, for an education system that reduces its financial impact on Maine’s taxpayers.