Letter: SAD 51 balances education costs

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The cost of education continues to increase the burden on the local taxpayer, largely because of decreased state and federal funding and growing numbers of mandates. As we watch our tax bill grow, it’s tempting to blame the local school districts for profligate spending. I was pleased and encouraged to see the positive report School Administrative District 51 received from the recent study conducted by the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation.

In 2011, the Legislature commissioned the CEPARE study, which sought to identify the best strategies and practices in Maine’s public schools. The study defined a “more efficient” school as one that receives a higher return on spending in terms of higher student performance on statewide tests and a higher graduation rate. Higher performing does not necessarily make a school more efficient. CEPARE said that school spending per pupil should not only result in higher academic performance, but should be better than expected given past student performance and the characteristics of a community. Three SAD 51 schools were among 500 evaluated. Greely High School, Greely Middle School and North Yarmouth Memorial School were among 90 schools designated both High Performing and More Efficient. (Mabel I. Wilson wasn’t evaluated because it doesn’t include a fifth grade.)

I am appreciative of the work our teachers and administrators are doing to not only provide an excellent education for our children, but to do it in a cost-effective way.

Vickie C. Bell