The governor’s proposal to expand school choice beyond the private academies ignores the reality of school budgets.

While choice offers some students a variety of options, it is not without costs to other students. The contention that “school choice” is about the student, not money, ignores the reality that schools are systems. Changing any component alters every component within the system. Taking money from one section and allocating to another section changes the system.

Vassalboro provides an great example. Vassalboro should be proud of the work done by the school board and budget committee balancing costs and the needs of students. It isn’t an easy task; each committee works diligently to create an acceptable solution.

The school budget, however, has two sets of fixed costs: Our portion of the administration of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which also serves Waterville and Winslow, and high school tuition.

Those fixed costs leaves the K-8 budget at the Community School as the only place to adjust funds. Any increases in tuition or administration, or decreases in state funding must be absorbed by the K-8 budget if we are to avoid tax increases.

Schools shoestring their way through each budget year, and Vassalboro has been good at keeping increases in the school budget low.

“School choice” ignores fixed costs within school systems. The buildings need heat whether 500 students or 450 students attend. Ignoring the ramifications of these fixed costs puts every school and its students in peril.

To say school choice is “all about the student” ignores the reality of school budgets. Allowing some students choice endangers programs and choices for others.

Virginia Brackett


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