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Funding Facts: Schools Still Shortchanged

You may hear from some in Augusta the state is giving more money to public schools than it has in years. The numbers, however, tell the real story. For those who work in schools, you’ve seen the cuts and felt how those cuts have impacted student learning.

The Maine Education Association believes in sharing facts with its members and those interested in understanding the state of public school funding. Below are funding facts, based on state budget figures in statute and Maine Department of Education preliminary figures for the 2016-17 school year.

  • The state today is funding the same dollar amount toward the cost of education as it did seven years ago.  In the 2008-09 school year, the state contribution toward the cos t of education was $983 million.  This represented nearly 53% of the total cost.  In 2015-16, the state contribution toward the cost of education is $983 million.  That now represents closer to 47% of the cost of education.
  • Because the cost of living has increased since 2008-09, however, the state contribution has far less purchasing power today.  Expressed in 2008 dollars, today’s state contribution is closer to $900 million.  The state would need to increase its contribution by nearly $84 million in order for it to have the same purchasing ability the state contribution had in 2008-09.
  • The state is required by voter mandate to pay 55% of the cost of education.  From the 2008-09 school year through the 2015-16 school year, the state will underfund its obligation to the cost of education by nearly $1.2 billion, shifting these costs onto local school districts and property taxpayers.
  • Since 2008-09, the cost of education has increased by an average of 1.6% annually, including new costs added such as normal retirement and charter schools.
  • During this same time period, the state has also shifted normal retirement costs on to the local districts, costing districts and taxpayers $37 million more alone in 2015-16.  And created charter schools, which cost over $14 million to fund in 2015-16 and will increase by $5 million in 2016-17*, thinning state contributions flowing to community schools.(*According to DOE data)
  • State funding is slated to increase by $2.3 million in 2016-17*, covering less than half the cost of the charter expansion.  At the same time statewide property valuation has decreased by over $1 billion and the cost of education has increased by a little over $12 million (about .6%).  This means local property taxpayers will have to completely fund half the cost of the charter expansion and the full cost of the increase in education, with a diminished property tax base to raise those funds with. (*According to DOE data)
  • From 2008-09 to the preliminary 2016-17 cost*, the required local mill rate to fund the cost of education has increased by 24%, from 6.79 mills to 8.44 mills due to the state’s chronic underfunding of education. (*According to DOE data)
  • The state stopped paying its bills, running up over a billion in debt to local school districts and property taxpayers.  Instead of recognizing these facts, such as when Maine’s hospitals were owed money, and working to address the debt owed to Maine’s children, the Governor has chosen a vitriolic approach, stating $23 million more in state funding for 2016-17 “would be a windfall for runaway state education spending.”  This simply isn’t the truth.


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