Confronting the Critics: Myths and Facts about Charter Schools in Maine

Read the full report | This was supposed to have been the year that Maine finally enacted legislation authorizing public charter schools. In Washington, the Obama Administration strongly supports public charter schools, with the president himself calling on states to lift any restrictions on the number of charter schools they allow. In fact, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized Maine by name for its failure to enact charter school legislation. Closer to home, Governor Baldacci and the Department of Education were likewise supportive of enacting charter school legislation, as was the Maine State Board of Education, which first called for the enactment of charter school legislation five years ago. The most recent bill to authorize public charter schools in Maine, LD 1438, was drafted with bipartisan sponsorship and support. Editorials in Maine’s leading newspapers called on the legislature to finally put charter schools into law, and polling data indicated that seven in ten Mainers support the charter school concept.

Despite all this, the Maine Legislature refused to enact charter school legislation. While LD 1438 passed with narrow but bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, it failed by a handful of votes in the Senate.

What went wrong? According to a scathing editorial in the Kennebec Journal, “lawmakers were cowed into submission by powerful interests representing – tellingly – superintendents, teachers, principals and school boards.” While this is undoubtedly true, it is also true that lawmakers were swayed by a number of claims asserted by charter school opponents.

What were the allegations made by those opposed to charter schools, and what are the facts in response?

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