Superintendent's Notebook: Schools need recess from government mandates

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

The Maine Legislature is in full swing for the 2019 session. There are many bills being proposed that will affect public education, the majority of them written with good intention and a desire to help students and/or professionals.

Each day we open the doors for public school children we are required to implement state and federal mandates that have been passed, some of them as long as 100 years ago.

As Jaime Vollmer writes in his book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone,” the requirements of public schools run from special education, economically disadvantaged support education called Title I, to suicide education, bloodborne pathogens training, and, lately, crisis management. The large list and array of expectations will no doubt get longer again this year at the end of the legislative session. The compounding of expectations also comes with no legislation to increase the school day or the school year.

If we truly want to improve the public education opportunities for generations to come we have to consider a moratorium on state and federal mandates. During that moratorium, a blue-ribbon committee could be appointed to review educational mandates to determine whether they are still needed, based on current needs and the effectiveness of each law. They also might look at the funding mechanism or lack thereof and determine its usefulness.

While many of us have been taught to plan and look ahead based on the common good, it is also important to research and evaluate what we have done and what we continue to do. One key for a great public school system might depend upon it.

In other Maine legislative news, there is a move afoot to move payments for teacher retirement and system-wide administration back to being the state’s responsibility. You may remember that the prior administration carried out that move and placed the responsibility on each school department to carry out. As a result, taxpayers in each locality saw their tax bill rise or districts made reductions in their budgets to meet the requirement.

As I write I’m watching snow come down on yet another snow day. Brunswick now has six days, surpassing the five built into the calendar. Our calendar, however, schedules 176 student days so the School Board has an option each year to waive one student day.

We will be discussing alternatives for make-up time over the next several weeks, trying to stay away from time during April vacation. Many people have said to me that we will be going to school in July. Let me assure you that we won’t do that, since you can’t spend public dollars for the 2018-2019 school year in the 2019-2020 school year. All school departments begin their new fiscal budget every July 1.

Paul Perzanoski is superintendent of schools in Brunswick. He can be reached at pperzanoski@brunswick.k12.me.us.

0