Education reform debate could begin budget compromise

State Budget deadline gets closer

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Legislative leaders in Augusta still haven’t been able to find a budget compromise, with just 10 days left until the current budget expires. Governor LePage said Tuesday he would be telling his department heads to start reviewing what services would be affected by a government shutdown if one actually occurs.

Meanwhile, the four top legislative leaders are still talking, as they have been for days, but apparently are no closer to a budget breakthrough. The major issues are the same as they’ve been for two months: education reforms, more money for schools and whether to eliminate that three percent tax passed by voters.

There is, however, one sign of progress on one of the key issues. Two legislators with a lot of experience on education issues — one Republican and one Democrat — have put together an education reform package they hope will get support from all sides. Rep Brian Hubble, D-Bar Harbor, and Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, both served two terms on the Education Committee, of which Langley is now chair.

Both said their proposal would redirect some of the money the state currently spends on education to increase support for poorer schools and districts.

"One of the great things is it redirects funding in the formula of about $87.5 million to those districts with students with the highest needs," Sen. Langley said, "whether it be economically disadvantaged or special needs students."

House Republicans and Gov. LePage have insisted a new budget must contain several specific reforms, including a shift of funding from administration to the classrooms, and some form of a statewide teacher contract. Rep. Hubbell and Langley said their proposal does not currently include those provisions, but they said the talks are continuing, and they hope to reach a compromise that will receive strong, bipartisan support.

"I just think the public and members of the legislature want assurance money is being used well to address the needs that are out there," Hubbell said.

Members of both parties told NEWS CENTER they are encouraged by the two lawmakers' proposal, and also hope it can gain support from both parties, and move them a step closer to an agreement on a full budget.

Lawmakers need to get that new budget passed and ready by June 30 in order to keep state government operating.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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