SCARBOROUGH — The statewide Stand Up For Students ballot initiative campaign kicked off July 15 at Memorial Field, calling for tax fairness and equal educational opportunity for students.
The group is asking that the state fund 55 percent of public education – a figure required by a 2004 state referendum – and wants a 3 percent surcharge on taxable income for Mainers who earn more than $200,000.
According to the group, last year Maine funded approximately 47.5 percent of the cost of education, approximately $154 million short of what was needed. As a result, since 2008, municipalities have had to raise nearly $1.4 billion in property taxes to bridge the gap.
Because of this funding mechanism, it says, wealthy communities are able to provide more revenue for their schools.
Tamara Ranger, a middle school teacher in Somerset County, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the state, said she has a “front-row seat” to how underfunded public education can be. At her school, for example, two-full time foreign language teacher positions have been cut to make up for a loss in funding, which means students can no longer take French or Spanish.
The ballot measure, she said, is about “giving every child a chance to succeed, regardless of where they live.”
The income surcharge would provide $157 million for “direct classroom learning,” John Kosinski, campaign manager for the organization, said at the press conference.
The group has more than 500 volunteers promoting the November vote.
Tamara Ranger, a middle school teacher in Skowhegan who was recently named Somerset County Teacher of the Year, spoke in favor of the Stand Up For Students ballot initiative campaign July 15 in Scarborough.