Portland forum seeks input on state's school funding model

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PORTLAND — As part of a study of the state’s school subsidy formula, a firm commissioned by the Legislature will host a public meeting on the issue Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Casco Bay High School.

The Essential Services and Programs funding model, used to determine how much money the state provides to local school systems, has been under evaluation since 2012 by California-based Lawrence O. Picus & Associates. Picus is now seeking public input before a final report goes to the Legislature in December.

In April, the firm published Part 1 of its study on the EPS funding model, which was conducted between October 2012 and March 2013.

“The overall purpose is to have an outsider come in and take a look at all the details of the EPS funding formulas,” said Allan Odden, principal partner at the consulting firm. “The public hearing is to have practitioners in the field respond to our recommendations.”

The firm, which has conducted similar studies in states around the country, is seeking input on all topics related to the EPS funding model, but will focus on four items at the meeting:

• The specific resources included (or that should be included) in the EPS funding system to determine how much revenue each school district receives.

• The way revenues are raised and distributed to school districts in Maine and the equity of the funding system.

• The relative state/local share of school costs and the overall level of education spending in Maine.

• And teacher compensation.

The information gleaned from the forums will help shape the final report to the Legislature, which is expected consider the recommendations in next year’s session.

School boards, administrators, teachers and parents have levied complaints against the EPS model, including inequitable transportation funding between urban and rural school districts, and inadequate funding for rural districts that offer special programming.

Odden said in the April report they found the funding system to be “pretty equitable,” although some areas, such as how wealth is calculated, could be improved.

The second part of the study will include a professional judgment panel assessment of EPS and an assessment of education strategies identified through case studies of improving schools. It will also develop a school finance model that will compute levels of adequacy for Maine and structured analyses of possible teacher compensation models.

In addition to the Portland forum, Picus was scheduled to hold three others this week in Bangor, Farmington and Presque Isle.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

Allan Odden is the correct spelling of his name