Brewer school tuition rate slightly up, state revenue cut by $81,169

Posted Jan. 07, 2013, at 10:04 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The school board learned Monday that the state-set nonresident tuition rate has increased slightly, but then was told the school district will get $81,169 less in state funding as part of Gov. Paul LePage’s $12.58 million cut in state education aid.

“Although a curtailment of any kind is very hard for our district to absorb, we did anticipate that this number could have been significantly higher,” school department business manager Gretchen Gardner told the Brewer School Committee on Monday. “In anticipation of this curtailment order, we met in early December with principals and directors and implemented a freeze on discretionary spending.

“From this day forward, we will continue to monitor all financial aspects of the school department to ensure we stay within the constraints of our budget,” she said.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen issued a letter to school officials on Dec. 27 about the governor’s school funding curtailment, which also will cut $271,000 from Bangor’s school budget and around $870,000 from Portland.

The school department learned on Friday that the tuition rate for fiscal year 2012-13 was set at $7,832, which is $27 more than this school year, but is still $617 less than what Bangor is getting. Bangor, which has relatively few tuition students, saw a decrease from $8,833 last year to $8,449 for 2012-13.

With 343 of the 700 or so students at Brewer High School from outlying communities, tuition rate revenues plays a huge role in the budget, Gardner said, explaining to the school board how the complicated tuition formula is calculated.

She then went through how to calculate special education tuition rates, which generate about $350,000 in revenue each year, and are based on individual services provided and daily enrollment in those programs.

“School administrative units are allowed to charge regular tuition … plus an additional amount for allowable special education services for a child,” Gardner said.

During the meeting, the school board also updated policies regarding bullying, school committee use of email, and student computer and Internet use, and also held the first reading of a new policy on the management of athletic concussions and other head injuries.

Brewer High School principal David Wall also told the school board that new legislative rules for standards-based or proficiency-based education will affect students graduating from high school in 2018 and he and other team members are working on a plan now. Legislators endorsed the new rules for 2017, but they didn’t fund them, Wall said, so he expected them to go into effect the following year.

“We must keep in mind change is coming,” Wall said. “The class of 2018 is this year’s seventh graders.”

Under the changes, high school credit and report cards will change to show if a student has demonstrated proficiency in the various Maine Learning Results content areas.

“One of the things this legislation says is we have to have in place multiple pathways” to show proficiency, Wall said.

Internships, seminars, exhibitions and dual enrollment in college courses are some possible pathways, the principal said.

“What I am working on right now is a five-year comprehensive plan and goals for Brewer High School” that will be presented at the February school board meeting, Wall said.

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