School may be already out, but the Legislature isn’t just yet.
Last week, the Appropriations Committee cut $18.4 million in targeted funding Maine DOE and the Governor had proposed in the next biennial budget that would have supported improvement and innovation in our schools. Included in those cuts was $3 million specifically for school improvement, funding which several districts have already expressed an interest in receiving.
At the same time, there has also been a movement in the Legislature to stall the Maine School Performance Grading System so a new one could be developed, but it is not expected to be successful. The letter grades are a tool to better target our improvement supports to the schools that need it most. Regardless of what happens at the Legislature, DOE is fully committed to helping your schools improve – it’s why we are here. We also stand by the value of the school report cards because we believe it is important to have a statewide school accountability system that spurs action to address Maine’s stagnant test scores, high college remediation rates and the skills gap employers are faced with today. We continue to consider ways to make the performance grading system a more valuable tool for school improvement and will be discussing that with many of you at next week’s Superintendent’s Conference.
Just as we tell schools they can’t spend their way to improving student achievement, without the $3 million we’d requested, we too will have to better direct our own existing resources to help schools give Maine kids the education they deserve. Internally, we’re developing operating procedures for helping schools with their improvement and transformation work and deploying our own staff resources accordingly.
We’re also reaching out to all D and F schools now, compiling their needs and then developing resources connected to each of those areas they want – and need – to improve. Resources could include case studies, sample materials to pass along to parents, and contacts at schools who are willing to share strategies directly with you for how they turned a particular struggle into a success story. Expect those resources on our website soon, and for us to let you know about them as they are made available through these Commissioner’s Updates, which will move to biweekly for the summer starting on June 27.
I know your State budget questions extend beyond the targeted funding for school improvement, especially given there may be more State money sent to districts than you planned for in your budgeting process. Please know as soon as the budget is finalized, we will be reaching out to you through an Administrative Letter with information and related guidance.