PRIORITY NOTICE: Notice from Maine Charter School Commission- Public Input for Proposed New Public Charter School

Maine Charter School Commission Banner

The Maine Charter School Commission has received applications from two entities proposing a new public charter school opening in the fall of 2020. There are 9 public charter schools operating in the state of Maine. Current law allows for a maximum of 10.

Applications were received for:

  • Ecology Learning Center, located in Montville. will serve grades 9-12 with a target population of high school-aged youth seeking experiential, community-based learning. The catchment area of the school will be Waldo County.
  • Sheffwood Academy, located in Topsham, will serve grades 6-12 with a target population of students with a passion for the arts and/or technology. The catchment area of the school will be a 20-mile radius around Topsham.

At its August 6, 2019 Business Meeting, the Maine Charter School Commission determined whether the application(s) appear to demonstrate the applicant’s competence in each element of the Commission’s published approval criteria and appears to demonstrate that the applicant is likely to open and operate a successful public charter school in the state of Maine. The Maine Charter School Commission denied the application for Sheffwood Academy, with no further action recommended. The Maine Charter School Commission has moved the Ecology Learning Center application forward, and a public hearing will be held on August 7th for the Ecology Learning Center from 4:00pm-6:00pm in the Washington/York Room of the Augusta Civic Center.  The purpose of the hearing is to elicit public comment on the expected impact of the proposed charter school on students, parents, the community to be served by the school, and public education in the State. It’s important to note that if a school is approved for a charter, all students in the state of Maine are welcome to enroll.

If you are unable to attend a public hearing in person, written comments will be accepted through 5:00pm on Friday, August 23rd. Written comments can be mailed to the Maine Charter School Commission at 182 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333 or emailed to mcsc@maine.gov.

Information will be provided on the Commission’s website www.maine.gov/csc.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Conceptual Conversation Around the Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems (PEPG)     

Since 2012, educators across the State of Maine have worked collaboratively to create locally developed, effective models for professional growth. Since that time, plans have been revised and refined to reflect the requirements of Chapter 180 and school or district goals. In response to changes to Chapter 180 made during the 129th legislative session, The Maine Department of Education invites interested stakeholders to attend a conceptual conversation related to educator effectiveness on August 5, 2019 from 3pm-5pm at the Burton Cross Building (Room 103A and 103B) in Augusta.  The conceptual conversations will provide an opportunity to explore hallmarks of educator effectiveness in the current rule Chapter 180.   

PL 2019, Chapter 27, removed the mandate that student learning and growth be used as a measure in summative effectiveness ratings effective on September 1, 2021.  In accordance with the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 20-A, sections 13704 and 13706, the Department of Education is required to amend the department’s rule Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, to implement the provisions of the law, and submit the provisionally adopted rule to the Legislature.   

The department intends to take the following steps in order to submit the provisionally adopted rule to the Legislature by January 10, 2020, as required.   

  1. On August 5, 2019 stakeholders are invited to attend a conceptual conversation which will be facilitated by Maine Department of Education’s Educator Effectiveness Specialist Emily Gribben and Legislative Liaison Jaci Holmes; the Commissioner and other Maine DOE members may join the conversations as their schedules allow. This conversation will be guided by the following discussion prompt: 

Prompt: What are the critical components of educational practice that lead to educator’s overall effectiveness?  

2.  Taking into consideration the insights gained from conceptual discussions and the requirements under Chaptered Law 27, the Maine DOE staff will write a proposed rule Chapter 180 and begin again the Maine Administrative Procedures Act (A.P.A.) major substantive rule process pursuant to 5 MRS §8052 (public notice of filing, public hearing, open public comment period).The Maine DOE is working diligently to honor the hard work that has been done by steering committees and all educators to implement PEPG systems that foster improved teaching and learning.   

3.  Once the proposed rule has been filed, the public will be notified of the scheduled public hearing and comment period.  This will be an opportunity to provide written and oral comments regarding the proposed rule.  

4.  The department will review all comments and respond accordingly.  Updates to rule will then be filed for legal review before being submitted to the legislature by January 10, 2020.   

For more information on the conceptual conversations for Chapter 180 and Educator Effectiveness, contact Emily Gribben at Emily.gribben@maine.gov.   

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: School Year 2019-2020 Enacted ED279 Subsidy Printouts Now Available

Thank you for your patience as we finalized School Year 2019-2020 ED 279 subsidy printouts to reflect the enactment of Public Law 2019 Chapter 343.  You may find these on the Maine Department of Education website:

FY 2019-2020 ED 279 Printouts

The subsidy amounts allocated to each school administrative unit are calculated using the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding model, based on $1.163 billion in General Purpose Aid (GPA) funding appropriated in the biennial budget.  Governor Mills proposed a $41.3 million increase for GPA in her biennial budget, resulting in a lower mill expectation from the prior year, down to 8.28 from 8.48.

The legislature approved the Governor’s budget, and appropriated an additional $3 million in funds to GPA for FY 2019-20, targeted toward Career and Technical Education schools and the Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The majority of school administrative units will not see a change in the enacted ED 279 from the preliminary ED 279, published on February 15, 2019, which were calculated based on the proposed budget.

If you have questions or need additional information as you review your enacted ED 279, please contact our School Finance Team:  Tyler Backus at tyler.backus@maine.gov    Ida Batista at ida.batista@maine.gov  or Paula Gravelle at paula.b.gravelle@maine.gov

Questions & Answers regarding An Act to Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools

In an effort to support schools and districts as they align their practices and policies in response to the passing of Public Law 2019, Chapter 54, please see the Question and Answer document and resources, below.  

 Food Shaming

  1. What constitutes food shaming?  The law prevents public schools from:
  • denying a reimbursable meal to an otherwise eligible student who requests it;
  • requiring a student to throw away their meal after it has been served to them;
  • requiring a student to perform chores or work as a means of paying for one or more meals or as punishment for not paying for one or more meals;
  • refusing a meal as a form of or as part of a disciplinary action; or
  • openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or has payments due for a meal.

Grades

  1. What grade levels are impacted by this new law?

The law applies to all grade levels in a public school that provides students meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, therefore any grade enrolled in the public school.  The law does not apply to private schools.

Seniors

  1. Can schools prohibit seniors from participating in graduation functions/activities if the student has meal debt?
  2. When Seniors have balances at the end of the year, whether it is for meals, books, or computers, we do not pass out the cap and gown until the balance is paid.  Can we still do that?
  3. Our district charging policy has been that to receive graduation tickets or their cap and gown, seniors must have their lunch balance cleared up. Additionally, we have withheld open campus privileges or a superintendent’s agreement if there is an outstanding lunch balance. Will this still be allowable?

The law prevents openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student with a meal debt.  If the only reason a student is being prohibited from an activity is because of a meal debt, it would constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student.  If the prohibition is potentially based on one of a list of factors (owed books, uniforms, other debt) including a meal debt, it might not constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student, since there are multiple reasons for which a student is denied.  School administrative units are encouraged to consult with legal counsel about their specific policies.

Communication

  1. Are the cashiers allowed to tell the students when they are charging or close to charging?

A public school’s communications about a student’s meal debts (charging) must be made to the parent or guardian of the student rather than to the student directly except that, if a student inquires about that student’s meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry.  A public school may ask a student to carry to the student’s parent or guardian a letter regarding the student’s meal debt.  A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Are we allowed to let the children know that they are getting low on their account?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Most software schools are using automatically say “Please wait, low balance,” when a student uses their PIN. which is identifying the student, where others can hear it. Would that still be acceptable?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. If a student directly asks about balance information what is our answer? What if they are 18 years old?

If the student inquires about his/her meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry. This applies to a student enrolled at the public school, regardless of age. A student may be asked to deliver a notice to parents/guardians about the debt, but should not be approached unsolicited about the debt.

  1. Can we post a sign at the register telling students they can ask what their account balance is?

Yes. If the student inquires about their meal debt, the staff may answer their inquiry. Otherwise communication must be made directly to the parent/guardian, regardless of the age of the student.

A La Carte

  1. Our school policy says that if you owe money you cannot purchase a la carte items and there is no charging of a la carte items.  This policy has helped to keep our lunch debt down some. Are we still going to be able to say no to the extra items if they don’t have money?

Yes. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may discreetly notify a student that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).

  1. Charging for ala carte is not allowed so when the student is told that in line in front of other students, is that considered lunch shaming?

No. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may notify a student discreetly that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).  Efforts to make this policy known and well publicized should be made to avoid the situation and potential for embarrassment.

Alternate Meals

  1. Can Schools implement an alternative meal (with all components) until the debt is paid?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students. Provision of an alternative meal could openly identify or stigmatize a student.

  1. Our school provides a bag lunch to students with a negative balance before the lunch period so that it looks like a lunch brought from home. Can we keep doing this?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students.

Outstanding Debt

  1. What are we to do with the outstanding lunch balances? How do we encourage parents to be responsible?

Public schools should follow their policy or procedure for collecting payments from families. This policy/procedure should be shared publicly so parents are informed of the process.

  1. Can we send outstanding debts to a collection agency?

Yes.

  1. What happens when everyone owes and refuses to pay because they know they do not have to, in order to get a meal?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy.

  1. Who will pay for the unpaid balances?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy. Once the debt is determined to be uncollectable, such as after a student leaves the district or graduates, it is considered bad debt and is not an allowable expense of the Federal school foodservice program or any other Federal program. The debt would need to be paid by non-Federal funds, such as the general fund and the debt would become the responsibility of the public school at this point.

OTHER

  1. What is the State’s plan to provide funding for the lunch bills that won’t get paid?

The law was identified as an unfunded mandate and passed by a 2/3 vote by the Legislature.  Funding will need to be addressed at the local level.

  1. Does this apply to all meals, breakfast, lunch and snack?

This law applies to all programs that provide student meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. This includes the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Snack Service.

  1. Is there guidance available on how to handle unpaid meals?

The law requires the Department of Education to develop guidance for school administrative units relating to the collection of student meal debt, including, but not limited to, best practices and information on how to create an online system for the payment of student meal debt.

The Maine DOE has guidance available online, and  The USDA has guidance and resources available online, including a guide book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: Seeking Public Comment for a Tydings Amendment Waiver

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is seeking 30 days of public comment from May 22 – June 20, 2019, on a Tydings amendment waiver application (waiver from §421(b) of the General Provisions Act) to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The Tydings amendment waiver seeks an extension to the availability of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) §1003(a) funds awarded during Federal fiscal year (FY) 2017.

Maine DOE Leadership participated in a call with USDOE program staff on Friday, May 10, 2019. During this call, the USDOE outlined next steps regarding Maine’s submission of an amendment to the Maine ESSA State Plan. The Maine DOE is working to provide the necessary information as expeditiously as possible. During this time of pause, the Maine DOE is unable to utilize 1003(a) funds. USDOE approval of the Tydings amendment waiver would allow the Maine DOE to make available 1003(a) funds to Maine schools identified for tiered supports, once the pause is lifted.

The U.S. Department of Education requires state educational agencies, when seeking waivers from statutory or regulatory requirements, solicit public comment on the application, respond to public comments, and provide evidence of the available comment period. The Maine Department is requesting the period of availability for $2,578,500.00 of 1003(a) funds be extended from September 30, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

A copy of the letter seeking waiver from §421(b) of the General Provisions Act can be downloaded with key elements of the request included below.

Federal program affected by the requested waiver

Maine’s Model of Support for eligible Tier III (Comprehensive Supports and Intervention or CSI) and Tier I (Additional Targeted Supports and Intervention or ATSI) support under section 1003(a) of ESEA, as amended by the ESSA of 2015, is immediately impacted by the Department’s waiver request. This request is seeking to extend the availability of $2,578,500.00 to support eligible Maine schools.  The funding will assist schools in engaging in whole-school reform by meeting school and student needs.

Impact to Student Achievement

Waiving §421(b) of the General Provisions Act (Tydings waiver) will directly impact student achievement by allowing the Maine Department of Education to provide increased support for school and classroom leaders during the 2019-2020 school year. Maine is committed to providing a differentiated method of support to struggling schools. Maine’s Model of Support includes coaching and mentoring for school leaders, evidence-based professional learning for educators, and content-specific instructional coaching in classrooms. This process requires all eligible Tier III schools to annually partner with educators, families, and community members to complete a comprehensive needs assessment (CNA). During this process each school team analyzes local academic and non-academic data, identifies promising practices and concerning trends, determines root cause,and creates meaningful goals and a plan for continuous improvement.

Monitoring

The Department will continue to work with schools eligible to receive Tier III (CSI) and Tier I (ATSI) support to ensure funds are utilized in a manner that is reasonable, necessary and allowable under the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA of 2015. The Maine Department of Education will continue to ensure proposed uses of funds align with the school’s completed CNA.  Schools eligible to receive Tier III (CSI) supports will continue to document all school improvement related work within DirigoStar (Indistar), the Department’s online project management tool. Each school is also supported and monitored by an assigned school leadership coach. Maine DOE leadership and instructional coaches visit each Tier III eligible school several times throughout the school year.

Continuity of Services to Students

Schools will continue to utilize their completed CNAs to direct and implement the work without negative impact to specific student populations. The extension to the period of availability of funds will ensure schools will have an increased opportunity to access funds to further target supports and meet the needs and goals of the schools, students, and educators as determined in the CNA. Schools will continue to share and engage with communities and families in ways they have found beneficial, and which meet the needs of schools and their communities.

Comments may be submitted to: ESSA.DOE@maine.gov