Maine school boards can take a lesson from the cautious response to the initiative involving marijuana. In an uncertain time, many Maine communities said that, at least temporarily, they will decline to permit marijuana businesses the opportunity to set up shop. Wait and see. Take proper precautions. Think about what the possibilities and challenges will actually be.

There is, today, a need to take a stand, at least temporarily, that our towns will not underwrite vouchers for any other form of schools. Dollars raised in the community and from state and federal sources for the community are for local students to attend local public schools.

The funds provided from some sources are, in part, proportional to the number of students, but they are not designated for each student. They are designated for the local school system under its local governance. Each town, by itself or with others, must support a local school. The actual marginal cost to a town for acquiring a new student is near zero. But charter schools and voucher systems blur that reality and operate as if the “average cost per student” is the actual cost per student.

Confusing these is an example of a dangerous kind of innumeracy — willful ignorance.

The U.S. Senate approved, in a tie, the nomination of an outspoken advocate of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, to head the Department of Education. Her own track record is not good, and she has supported religious and for-profit schools that siphon off public resources designed for public school systems.

At least for the time while Secretary DeVos gets established and makes clear the way she intends to manage, it is important for local communities to establish safeguards against those who would dip into the already-limited funding for our schools.

Jim Perkins


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