House and Senate agree that charter schools should be totally nonprofit

Posted June 03, 2013, at 5:37 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would require charter schools to be operated by nonprofit organizations passed successfully through both the House and Senate.

LD 671, An Act to Protect Charter Schools by Requiring Them to be Operated as Nonprofit Organizations, pass through the House 85-11 last week and through the Senate 21-13 on Monday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, is designed to prevent a nonprofit organization from gaining approval for a charter school and then hiring a for-profit company to run it.

Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who voted with Republicans against the bill, said during debate in the Senate on Monday that the system already in place is adequate.

“We have a charter commission in place tasked to review all the incoming requests for proposals,” said Langley. “They have denied more than they have let in. We should let the commission do its work before we micromanage the process.”

Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, who chairs the Education Committee, said she was concerned that some for-profit companies have spotty records when it comes to running schools.

“This bill eliminates the drive to reduce education programs to their least common denominator,” said Millett. “This bill will ensure that the focus is where it should be.

Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said the bill is worthy because it shields taxpayer funding from becoming someone’s profits.

“We ought to be focusing every single dollar on our children, on their education,” said Goodall. “This is a really clear decision: Are we going to be investing every single public dollar into public education or will public dollars be sent to the bottom line to return to shareholders and investors.”

The bill faces more votes in the House and Senate and could eventually be the subject of a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, who championed Maine’s charter school law.

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