How Consolidation Threatens School Choice

Read the full report | What the people of Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath, and Woolwich are being encouraged to do would shock supporters of school choice across the nation, who are working diligently to win the very school choice  rights that people of these communities are being told they must give up.

Residents of these five towns currently, and for many years, have had the opportunity to send their children to schools of their own choosing, public or private, under Maine’s Town Tuitioning program. Georgetown, Phippsburg, and West Bath operate K-6 schools and Woolwich operates a K-8 school. Students in these towns, once old enough to leave the public school systems, are able to attend a school of their choice for the remainder of their K-12 education, paid for by the towns. Arrowsic, the fifth of the five towns, operates no school at all, and therefore tuitions all its students.

While many students tuitioned in this way attend nearby public middle and high schools, an estimated 100 to 150 students from these five towns “attend schools outside the region” each year, meaning private schools of their choice, including schools out of state. It is this kind of freedom that supporters of school choice across the nation want enacted in their own communities.

The five towns in question, however, are being asked to give up that choice as part of a proposal to merge School Union 47, of which all five towns are members, with the neighboring Bath school system. According to the “governance plan” being advanced by consolidation supporters, “all students will attend regional public schools, with no tuition choice to schools, private or public, outside the region.” Students already taking advantage of the tuitioning program and any siblings of theirs will be “grandfathered” and allowed to complete their K-12 educations under the tuitioning program, but after that, Union 47’s current school choice option under the Maine Town Tuitioning program will be abolished.

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