I wanted you to see this letter House GOP Communications Director Rob Poindexter sent out to the press this afternoon regarding the school funding formula.
In his letter, Poindexter accurately shows both the BDN and Democrats being trotted out on education issues did not know Maine law.
The BDN has refused to make a correction or issue an apology for this inaccurate reporting.
Please share this story far and wide so people know the truth.
Members of the press,
For those of you covering the budget situation here in Augusta, there is something that is getting continually missed. Republicans’ budget reports include the teacher retirement costs in the EPS formula meaning that teacher retirement costs will be part of the 55% calculation. This is not a “gimmick” or some archaic principle that no one has ever thought of before, this is state law. It’s been in statute since 2011 and specifically says:
C. Beginning in fiscal year 2011-12, the annual targets for the state share percentage of the total cost of funding public education from kindergarten to grade 12 including the cost of the components of essential programs and services plus the state contributions to teacher retirement, retired teachers' health insurance and retired teachers' life insurance are as follows.
Here is the link to the statute: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/20-a/title20-Asec15671.html
In the future, rather than referring to the inclusion of teacher retirement costs as “gimmicks” please just state the fact that it’s the law.
I assume most of the reporters covering the budget already know this, but it seems to have befuddled at least the staff at the Bangor Daily News editorial board who printed a pair of editorials yesterday where the authors, including a sitting Maine Senator on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and a State Representative, apparently had no idea that this is in fact in statute. Here are the editorials:
From Rebecca Sen. Millett:
“Instead, they (Republicans) want to cut funding for Maine’s schools by $210 million and mask it by including the unfunded actuarial liability payments in the calculation of the state’s share of education costs. This move artificially inflates the state’s subsidy for schools, making it look like an increase in funding when in reality not one additional cent goes to the classroom.”
From the Bangor Daily News editorial Board:
“When it comes to calculating 55 percent of education costs, Republicans want to include teacher retirement payments in the state’s share. These payments, which must be made now to make up for payments the state didn’t make in the 1980s and 1990s, were always meant to be made entirely by the state and separately from of the state’s school funding formula. Adding them to the formula would increase the total bill for the state’s schools, to be borne by the state and local property taxpayers. This would result in local property taxpayers paying more, with none of the money going to classrooms or other current school functions.”
Neither of these editorials mentions anywhere that this is state law. I find it ironic and rich that in an editorial that chastises Republicans for ignoring the law, the Bangor Daily News chastises us in the 10th paragraph for proposing to follow the law.
I am under no illusions that we will ever get any fair coverage from the editorial boards in Maine but is it too much to ask that they at least be factual?
Communications Director, Maine House Republicans