School choice in Maine

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

School choice options in Maine include: charter schools, a limited voucher program, an inter-district enrollment policy and some online learning programs. In addition, about 9.35 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

The Maine Department of Education defines charter schools as follows:[3]

Charter schools are publicly funded schools governed and operated independently of the traditional public school system. They have more flexibility than traditional public schools over decisions concerning curriculum and instruction, scheduling, staffing and finance. Charter schools, however, are accountable to the terms of the contracts, or charters, that authorize their existence and the academic standards to which all other public schools are accountable.[4]

Charter schools in Maine are required to accept any resident student unless the school has reached its enrollment capacity for the applicant student's grade level.[3]

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there were two charter schools operating in the state as of the 2012-13 academic year. During that time, charter schools enrolled 106 students.[5][6]

Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of June 2014, the following organizations were listed by NACSA as charter school authorizers in Maine:[7]

Maine charter school authorizers
Organization Authorizer type Number of schools overseen
Maine State Charter School Commission Independent chartering board 2
Note: If the total number of charter schools accounted for in this table differs from the total number listed elsewhere on this page, the discrepancy owes to differing calculation methods and data sources.
Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Maine Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014

School vouchers

There is one extant school voucher program in Maine:

  • Town Tuitioning Program: Students in towns without high schools or elementary schools may be eligible for vouchers, which can be used to pay for attendance at other public schools or non-religious private schools (including out-of-state schools).[8]

Online learning

According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, there are no fully virtual schools in Maine and no major statewide online learning programs. The Maine Online Learning Program does provide some online learning opportunities for K-12 students through approved providers. As of the 2012-13 academic year, three approved providers enrolled 478 students in supplemental online learning programs. There are also some district-level programs.[9]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 16,731 students, or 9.35 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 147 private schools. Maine ranks 23rd highest in the nation in private school attendance.[10]

Public school open enrollment

According to the Education Commission of the States, Maine provides for inter-district/voluntary enrollment. Under inter-district enrollment policies, a student may attend any school in any district. Under voluntary enrollment policies, school districts may choose whether to participate and accept transfer students.[11]


In Maine in 2012-2013 an estimated 5,309 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[12]

A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.

Studies and reports

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

In 2014, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice published a description of and commentary on school choice options in the United States. Regarding the Town Tuitioning Program, the foundation said, "Maine’s town tuitioning is very restrictive on eligibility; students qualify only if their home districts do not have public schools. On funding power, Maine’s program does well, as per-pupil funding can equal the average cost statewide and even can go as high as 115 percent of the child’s current funding. Although the program does not place overly burdensome regulations on private schools, it does restrict religious schools from participating. Maine’s town tuitioning could increase its effectiveness by removing that restriction and not limiting student eligibility to their home districts' schooling arrangements."[13]

The full report can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of Maine ballot measures

Ballotpedia staff have tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Maine.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Maine + Education + Choice"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Maine School Choice News Feed

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See also