Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Wednesday morning the Maine Development Foundation announced its Healthy Maine Streets program which Bar Harbor has joined.

Vision and finance for Maine education

Despite the snow, I returned to Augusta for afternoon committee briefings from Maine Maritime Academy, the Finance Authority of Maine, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine State Museum, and from Commissioner Stephen Bowen.
on the Department of Education

Commissioner Bowen presented an overview of Department organization and his strategic plan. I believe this plan provides a good framework to evaluate the Department of Education and critique policy decisions made by our committee.

At my request, we also received an updated chart giving a comprehensive view of state and local education spending over time.

For the first, time the top line of this chart now shows total local spending, not just the baseline to meet the threshold of Essential Programs and Services.  To my eyes, the most striking feature is that overall education spending is now clearly declining and, for the first time, appears likely cross below the foundational line of EPS.  I am concerned that this trend predicts imminent harm to educational achievement at a time when more and more of our business leaders are telling us that the state needs to commit to better education.

The Commissioner also present the committee with a summary of the portions of the Governor’s supplemental budget that relate to education – essentially a review of what he presented to the Appropriations session that I attended on Tuesday.  I expressed my reservation about the apparent irony of proposing an increase in payment to the private academies in a budget vehicle that is necessitated by substantial curtailment.

The Department also released this information on the biennial budget which will follow the discussion on the supplemental budget.

Lobster hearings

Wednesday evening in Bucksport, the DMR continued its series of public hearings on the lobster fishery.  The Bangor Daily News carried this report: