Weight Blame by Funding Formula
The letter from Dean Richmond about Telstar's "F" grade was nearly perfect. Dean is a citizen of Mason Township, an unorganized territory, and I'm a Newry citizen, a very organized territory, so we look at SAD 44 issues a little differently. Dean spread the blame for the failing grade to everyone – a very diplomatic thing to do. I think the blame (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) should be divided between the five towns of the district and weighted exactly like our district's SPECIAL state school funding formula based only on each town's valuation. The unorganized territories, like unorganized students, can't be blamed lest they feel inferior.
If we do this, Newry is most to blame because it contributes more money to the district than any other town yet has the fewest students and we all know that money is the root of all evil. Because of a political deal done back in 2005, Newry (without a town vote or even a public discussion in Newry), became exempt from the normal school funding rules which are largely based on student enrollments.
Currently, Newry contributes about $100,000 per student to the district while Mason Township contributes at the state average tuition rate of less than $10,000. See the following reference: State of Maine Department of Education 2012-13 public secondary tuition rates, Grades 9-12: 20-A MRSA §5805 (2); Tuition – Secondary School Students – Public Schools. The maximum allowable tuition charge by a public secondary school is the rate computed under subsection 1 or the state average per public secondary student cost as adjusted, whichever is lower. The school board of the sending unit may vote to pay a higher tuition rate (The FY 2013 rate is $8,873.46).
Say, hypothetically, Newry were to withdraw from the district, and take its money, along with most of the blame for the failing score, wouldn't Telstar get a higher grade next year? It’s a win-win! You may say that it wouldn't be fair for Newry to stop subsidizing the other towns and concentrate all that potential on its own kids. I thought so too until the “F” grade. Sometimes you don't get what you pay for.