Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday morning in Augusta, the Legislature had its first regular session day.  During this session, the Legislature passed a sentiment honoring Bar Harbor’s James Gower, the founder of College of the Atlantic.

In the afternoon, I attended the meeting of the Charter School Commission to act on the five most recent charter school applications.  This was the first time I got to observe the Commission conduct business since I attended their public forum in Bangor on March 8.

Given that the Commission is generally understood to be favorably disposed towards charter schools and that they have previously suffered criticism from the Governor when they showed prudent hesitation, it surprised many observers when the Commission denied four out of five of the charter applications, including both of the privately-operated virtual schools.

From the thoughtful discussion, it seemed clear that the Commission indeed hopes for the success of charter schools in Maine but that they had grave doubts that these four charters could be successful as proposed. The Commission was particularly concerned that the two virtual schools lacked critical separation between governing oversight by an independent board and the actual school operations by their private, for-profit management companies.

Tuesday evening, I met with many of my Senate and House colleagues and talked about shared goals for this session.  Steps toward improving economic opportunity, public education, and primary health care remain high on most lists.