School choice in Maine

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See also

School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public schools 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

See also: Charter schools in Maine

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 organizations in the following table 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 5
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, "Authorizer Contact Information," accessed June 18, 2014

Magnet schools

Magnet schools, sometimes called theme-based schools, are public schools of choice that use a specialized subject area or innovative learning approach to attract students from more diverse backgrounds. In fact, magnet schools began as a way to desegregate public schools through choice rather than force. Magnet schools can reach beyond the barriers of school districts, but they are still managed and funded publicly by local districts, even though they are centered around specialized themes and subjects.[8][9]

In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 2,949 magnet schools in the United States. In that year, Maine had one magnet school that served 108 students. Approximately 18 percent of students enrolled in Maine magnet schools were classified as a minority. That percentage of students was predominately Asian. This was higher than Maine's average of 8 percent minority enrollment. There is no data on the average student:teacher ratio in Maine's magnet schools. The table below lists this information again. Data is not available on Maine's neighboring states.[10][11]

Magnet school participation, 2011-2012
State Magnet schools in the state Students in magnet schools Minority enrollment percentage Student:teacher ratio
Maine 1 108 18% N/A
Massachusetts No data available
New Hampshire No data available
Vermont No data available
Source: Public School Review, "Public School Review state magnet school pages," accessed December 12, 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).[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]


In Maine in 2012-2013 an estimated 5,309 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[16]

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."[17]

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 has 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


  1. National Conference of State Legislatures, "School Choice and Charters," accessed June 18, 2014
  2. Friedman Foundation for School Choice, "What is School Choice?" accessed June 18, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Maine Department of Education, "Public Charter Schools in Maine," accessed June 20, 2014
  4. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Schools - Maine," accessed June 20, 2014
  6. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Students - Maine," accessed June 20, 2014
  7. National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Authorizer Contact Information," accessed June 18, 2014]
  8. Public School Review, "What is a magnet school?" accessed December 9, 2014
  9. Magnet Schools of America, "What are magnet schools?" accessed December 9, 2014
  10. National Center for Education Statistics, "Selected statistics from the common core of data: School year 2011-2012," accessed December 12, 2014
  11. Public School Review, "Maine magnet schools," accessed December 12, 2014
  12. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "Maine - Town Tuitioning Program," accessed June 20, 2014
  13. Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, "Maine," accessed June 20, 2014
  14. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "Private School Universe Survey (PSS)", 2011-12 ; "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey, v.1a.," accessed May 12, 2014
  15. Education Commission of the States, "Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed June 20, 2014
  16. A2Z Home's Cool, "Number of Homeschoolers in the USA," updated February 2, 2014
  17. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "The ABCs of School Choice - 2014 Edition," accessed June 18, 2014