May 25, 2018
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Student organizes rally against education cuts Friday at Maine State House

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Lauren Umberhind, a 17-year-old Richmond High School senior who is sick of seeing budget cuts at her school, will take that message and dozens of her peers to the State House on Friday for a rally against Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget proposal.

Umberhind, who is a student representative on her local school board, said recent meetings have been consumed by talks about how state funding will negatively affect her school, which is part of Regional School Unit 2.

LePage’s two-year budget for education proposes to essentially flat-fund general purpose aid and to shift some costs associated with teacher retirement from the state to the local level.

“I just thought that there’s something that I should do about it,” said Umberhind. “[On Friday] everyone’s going to be waving posters, wearing their school colors and letting the Legislature and the governor know we don’t agree with the cuts.”

Umberhind said she started the idea with a friend from Monmouth Academy, also part of RSU 2, but that through Facebook and other networking technology, the idea has spread. On a Facebook page she created, 85 people have said they will attend the rally and another 113 listed themselves as “maybes.”

“I would have been happy with 20 people saying they would go,” said Umberhind.

Umberhind and the group will gather outside the Maine State Museum at around 9 a.m. They plan to march around the Capitol Complex for an hour or more.

“Our main goal is to put a face to the cuts,” she said. “My passion is real and this comes easily if you’re really passionate about something.”

This isn’t the first time Umberhind, who hopes to study nursing next year at the University of Maine, has spoken out about the budget. In testimony to the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee last month, she described how she travels to two neighboring school districts to take top-level courses.

“Richmond High School is a small school in a small town,” she said on Thursday. “We’re already kind of limited with resources and opportunities. We have to make sure the students get the requirements they need to graduate.”

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