Maine School District Consolidation Repeal, Question 3 (2009)
The referendum was an attempt to repeal a school consolidation measure that was passed by the Maine State Legislature in 2008. It is important to note that this measure, though it sought to repeal a law, was a citizen's initiative and not a people's veto measure. A Yes vote was a vote to repeal the school consolidation law and a No vote was a vote to keep the current law in place.
The consolidation law under challenge was enacted and signed on April 18th, 2008. The Maine legislature has the right under Maine's direct democracy laws to put an alternative ballot measure on the ballot. Sen. Justin Alfond indicated in mid-March that it was unlikely the legislature would do that.
Question 3 was defeated as of November 4, 2009 at 2:05 a.m. EST.
|Maine Question 3|
The language that appeared on the ballot was:
Do you want to repeal the 2007 law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?
Individual supporters included:
- The Green Independent Party of Maine
- Alan Morse, who collected signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot, said "...it's a very easy sell. I don't have to say more than half a sentence before people jump to sign my petition." Many of those who wanted to repeal the consolidation effort came from rural areas.
According to the coalition, residents in approximately 100 school districts were ordered to consolidate their districts, but instead voted against it. Together, those districts face about $5 million in penalties. While reminding that those districts were at the time in some of the state’s poorest counties, Skip Greenlaw, head of the group, also stated on October 2, 2009: “The state told people upfront they would be penalized if they didn’t vote for consolidation and that’s just not right in a democracy. Even with that threat hanging over their heads, 88,916 voters said no to the mandate because they thought it was a bad idea for their communities and their schools.”
Supporters of the consolidation plan included Governor John Baldacci and Education Commissioner Susan Gendron, who has asked that schools continue with consolidation programs despite community unrest. She said, "There are an equal number of people who say this is the right thing to do. We need to move forward."
Maine People for Improved School Education was main committee leading the effort against Question 3. The "Vote No on 3" campaign launched in September 2009. They argued that the Consolidation law saves taxpayers $36 million a year and creates efficient school system. The group, who registered with the Maine Ethics commission in June, said the state can’t afford to overturn the mandate passed in 2007. According to the committee’s campaign manager, New Augur: “We certainly hope to convey to Maine voters how critical a ‘no’ vote is, and we want to do that any way we can.” The group launched a website, www.costtoomuch.com."It makes no sense to go back to the old inefficient, overly bureaucratic way," Augur said. "It costs too much to the Maine taxpayer and it hurts our kids too much."
- Gov. Baldacci made special note of his opposition to the referendum in his "State of the State" speech on March 10, 2009.
$66,697 was reported to have been contributed to campaigns relating to support of Question 1.
Below is a chart that outlines major donations to the Maine Coalition to Save Schools campaign, as of October 2009:
|Town of Blue Hill||$5,000|
|Winthrop Fuel Company, Inc.||$100|
|Douglas Smith (retired legislator)||$100|
$506,500 was reported to have been contributed to campaigns relating to opposition of Question 3.
Below is a chart that outlines major donations to the Maine People for Improved School Education campaign, as of October 2009:
|Coca Cola Company||$25,000|
|Sunday River ski area||$10,000|
|First Atlantic Healthcare||$10,000|
|Penn National Gaming Inc.||$10,000|
|Leon Gorman, L.L. Bean chairman||$10,000|
Media editorial positions
- Main article: Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2009
Editorial boards in support
- The Seacoast Media Group supported Question 3. They said,"The York School District received permission to opt out of this law. Having said that, there was incredibly strong opposition to the law in town during the consolidation process. And, a special school Town Meeting had to be held because of the law, an added expense. The law was another well-intentioned attempt by Gov. John Baldacci that didn't work. We urge a YES vote on Question 3."
Editorial boards opposed
- The Bangor Daily News opposed Question 3. In an editorial, they said, "Simply put, Maine has more school administration than it can afford. The state’s consolidation effort has been heavy-handed and met with strong resistance in some areas. This, however, is not a reason to abandon the needed effort to reduce the number of school districts in the state. A no vote on Question 3 will allow those districts that have consolidated to move forward, while lawmakers can turn their attention to rewriting the troublesome portions of the 2007 reorganization law."
- The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel opposed the school district consolidation repeal. They said, "The school district consolidation law has its flaws, but the idea behind it is sound: Cutting administrative costs state-wide will mean more money for classroom instruction, which is what we really want to buy with our education dollars. That's why we're voting "no" on Question 3."
- The Brunswick Times Record opposed Question 3. They said,"A decisive vote favoring consolidation will give lawmakers the impetus to address any lingering concerns about equitable cost-sharing and striking a balance between local and regional interests. Achieving administrative efficiencies and improving educational opportunities can go hand in hand — as evidenced by RSU 1’s experience with consolidation. Let’s not quit before other school districts reach that worthy goal."
- The Sun Journal opposed Question 3. They said,"While there are problems with consolidation, we feel they are more easily handled individually than by sweeping away the law. If that was done, those early promises of consolidation, like the Rumford-Mexico-Dixfield-Buckfield union, could be lost. School consolidation is a work in progress, this much is true. But for Maine, it is work that should continue."
- The Journal Tribune opposed Question 3. They said,"It’s easy to understand the resentment that lingers for Maine’s School District Consolidation Law. From the start, its directives and penalties made clear to local boards and educators that local interests wouldn’t count for much. But as it turned out, local initiative does count for something...We see little to be gained – and many potential problems – if the School District Consolidation law is summarily repealed. So we urge a vote of No on Question 3.
Features of consolidation law
Status of reorganization plans
- In 2009 only 39 of the required 80 reorganization plans were submitted to the State Department of Education for review. Commissioner Gendron approved several more alternative plans and one more reorganization plan in October 2009, which brought the total to 32 approved alternative plans and six reorganization plans. Two of the reorganization plans were approved by voters; one was rejected; and three are waiting for voter approval.
- According to the State Department of Education the average school enrollment dropped 20% in the last 30 years.
- See the complete list, by county, of submitted plans and their status at School District Plans.
Penalties for non-compliance
If the 285 school districts (which must, by current law, consolidate to 80 new districts by January 2009) do not comply by the January 2009 deadline then the State Department of Education assesses each district a monetary penalty by withholding State education funds. The total estimate of penalties to those districts not yet in compliance will be in excess of $43 million dollars.
According to Scott Porter, superintendent of School Union 102, School Union 134, and East Machias, which includes schools in 11 towns, the penalties are unnecessary. Porter stated that each of the 11 towns that he oversees has it’s own school board, budget and pays their own bills. The state, according to him, did not approve their consolidation plan and will assess a penalty fee. According to Porter: “It just doesn't seem right that we're doing everything we can to consolidate services and yet if this law stays on the books, the towns I represent, the 11 towns, will see collective penalties of over $200,000.That's just not fair."
This timeline is made possible by changes resulting from enactment of LD 2323 on April 18, 2008. Prior to passage of LD 2323, November 4, 2008, was the latest date allowed by law for referendum.
- November 15 , 2008 - Regional Planning Committees - Last date for Reorganization Plan to be submitted to Department of Education in order to meet the January 30, 2009, referendum date
- December 15, 2008 - Municipal officers of town meeting municipal school units & CSD Member towns - Deadline for Order with wording of ballot article to be filed with the town clerk
- December 28, 2008 - School boards of SADs and CSDs - Deadline to sign election warrants
- December 29, 2008 - CSD & SAD Member towns - Deadline for delivery of absentee ballots and election warrants to town clerks
- December 29 , 2008 - Town meeting municipal school units - Deadline for Absentee ballots to be made available
- January 20 , 2009 - Town meeting municipal school units and CSDs - Last day for public hearing on referendum article (notice of public hearing must be posted 7 days prior)
- January 23, 2009 - SAD Member Towns - Last date for public hearing on referendum article
- January 23 , 2009 - Town meeting municipal school units member towns in CSDs and SADs - Deadline for posting warrants
- January 30 , 2009 - Referendum date
- Primer on how the law will be implemented and how it will affect you. Maine Townsman, June 2007
- Information from the State about the current law
- Navigating the DOE - PDF format
- Each school district in Maine must convene it's own Reorganization Planning Committee.
- Role and Responsibilities of the Reorganization Planning Committee - PDF format
- Summary of Approved School Consolidation Legislation
- See also: Polls, 2009 ballot measures
- A poll released October 27, 2009 by Pan Atlantic SMS Services revealed that 39% of voters are in favor of Question 3, whereas 45% are opposed and 16% are undecided. Approximately 400 voters were polled. The poll is reported to have a +/- 4.9% margin of error.
- An October 2009 poll by Pan Atlantic SMS Services revealed that 46.1% of voters are in favor of Question 3, whereas 41.1% are opposed and 12.7% are undecided.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided|
|Sept. 30 - Oct. 7||Pan Atlantic SMS Services||46.1%||41.1%||12.7%|
|Oct. 20 - 22||Pan Atlantic SMS Services||39%||45%||16%|
- Education Week,"Education Issues Bidding for Voters' Attention," October 26, 2009
- The Maine Campus,"Question 3 crafters say savings would remain," October 26, 2009
- The Herald Gazette,"Voters to decide on school district consolidation repeal," October 23, 2009
- Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Former Foes Become Allies in Battle Over School Consolidation," October 22, 2009
- Kennebec Journal,"QUESTION 3 Merger repeal foes turn active," September 27, 2009
- Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Question 3 Opponents Officially Launch Campaign," September 25, 2009
- Bangor Daily News,"Consequences of Question 3," October 29, 2009
- Morning Sentinel,"Question 3: Smaller is often better when it comes to school sizes," October 28, 2009
- Bangor Daily News,"Vote yes on 3 to repeal school consolidation law," October 27, 2009
- Morning Sentinel,"Repeal laws to retain local control of schools," October 24, 2009
- ↑ PUBLIC Law, Chapter 668, An Act To Remove Barriers to the Reorganization of School Administrative Units
- ↑ Stimulus cash creates funding uncertainty, March 12, 2009
- ↑ Bangor Daily News,"2009 Election Results," last retrieved November 4, 2009
- ↑ Maine Secretary of State,"Upcoming Elections," retrieved September 7, 2009
- ↑ Text of the Original Petition
- ↑ On Maine Politics, Kennebec Journal, Oct. 29, 2007
- ↑ Consolidation Proposal Sparks Outrage in Maine, Access Quality Education
- ↑ Bangor Daily News, "Coalition wants repeal of school consolidation", October 3, 2009
- ↑ Petition drive against school mergers gathers steam, Times Herald, Oct. 31, 2007
- ↑ Maine Campaign Finance,"Question 3 committees," retrieved September 27, 2009
- ↑ Associated Press,"Campaign launched to keep Maine school merger law," September 27, 2009
- ↑ Kennebec Journal, "QUESTION 3 Merger repeal foes turn active", September 27, 2009
- ↑ Maine News, "Governor Offers More Details On "State of the State" Initiatives", March 11, 2009
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Follow the Money, Question 3"
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 Maine Today,"$109,000 more for the consolidation cause," October 23, 2009
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Maine Campaign Finance',"Maine Coalition to Save Schools," retrieved October 29, 2009
- ↑ Seacoast Media Group,"Our take on state ballot questions," October 28, 2009
- ↑ Bangor Daily News,"No on Question 3," October 21, 2009
- ↑ Morning Sentinel,"Consolidation of school districts still a good idea," October 25, 2009
- ↑ Brunswick Times Record,"Vote ‘No’ on Question 3," October 22, 2009
- ↑ Sun Journal,"Question 3: School law should stand," October 4, 2009
- ↑ Journal Tribune,"Question 3 can’t turn back Consolidation clock," October 22, 2009
- ↑ WCSH6,"School Consolidation Debate Ramps Up," September 27, 2009
- ↑ WCSH6.com, "Voice Of The Voter: Question 3 School Consolidation", October 31, 2009
- ↑ Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Poll Finds Waning Support for TABOR 2," October 26, 2009
- ↑ Portland Press Herald,"Poll: 51.8% plan to vote no on question 1," October 14, 2009