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Maine poised to join national Charter School movement

Since May 1 through 7 is National Charter Schools Week, 40 states and the District of Columbia will be celebrating the 5,000 public charter schools that enroll 1.6 million children who have chosen to attend.

This year’s theme is “Because Every Child Can Succeed.” But Maine does not yet have charter schools.

State Senator Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon Falls) has introduced enabling legislation that would allow these new forms of public education in Maine. Mason represents District 17, which includes Lisbon, Sabattus, Wales, Greene, Leeds, Turner, Livermore, Livermore Falls, Minot and Mechanic Falls.

Charter schools are public schools. They have some unique traits that increase the likelihood of a successful education for a child.

Options: Parents select the school that their child attends. Teachers choose to work in the school, most often for the professional satisfaction and the opportunity to shape school policy.

Innovation: Charters‚ flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual children, commitment to excel and serve the community and high levels of accountability often leads to innovative methods of teaching that lead to improved student achievement.

Flexibility: Charter schools are free to make timely decisions about developing curriculum, structuring the school day and hiring teachers who meet the needs of their students.

Accountability: Charter schools operate within a multi-tiered accountability system to parents—to authorizers via a performance-based contract, to the state and to lenders—that leads to quality schools and high achievement.

Partnerships with Parents and Communities: Parents and community members are welcomed in charter schools and involved in their day-to-day operations.

Maine’s public education system does well by most children. But on average, 20 to 25 percent of Maine’s high school students do not graduate on time. Of those who do graduate and go on to post-secondary education, one-third require remedial courses to be taken at their own expense, and about 40 percent drop out before attaining a two-year or four-year degree.

Maine is losing too many of our youth to low aspirations, unemployment, risky behaviors, poor health and crime. Maine people pay dearly for the related social services, lost employment and lost potential of our youth.

New public charter schools can provide a variety of innovative programs to meet the diverse needs of children and help more succeed in school and in life. Public charter schools are raising the bar about what’s possible—and what should be expected—in public education.

FMI, see the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at www.publiccharters.org; the Maine Association for Public Charter Schools at www.mainecharterschools.org; and Prepare Maine at www.preparemaine.org.

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