School Funding Cases in Maine

in Maine Litigation

Historical Background

In 1994, in response to state funding cuts in the early 1990s, plaintiff school districts and students filed School Administrative District No. 1 v. Commissioner, 659 A.2d 854, challenging the cuts on equal protection grounds under Maine’s state constitution. However, the relatively weak language of the education section of Maine’s constitution requires “the several towns,” rather than the state, “to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools.”

In its 1995 decision in favor of defendant, the Maine Supreme Court noted that plaintiffs had not alleged or presented evidence “that any disparities in funding, resulted in their students receiving an inadequate education,” indicating that the court might be more receptive to an “adequacy” claim than it was to an “equity” claim.

Recent Events

In June 2007, Maine enacted a law designed to reduce the number of school districts in the state from 290 to about 80. Governor John Baldacci’s proposal had called for a reduction to 26 districts. According to state officials, consolidation would save $36.5 million in 2008-09, which amounts to less than one percent of state spending. The consolidated districts are to be operational by July 1, 2009 and, with some exceptions, are required to have at least 2,500 students. Districts choosing not to participate will have state funding frozen.

In January 2008, opponents of the school district consolidation law failed to obtain enough signatures to put a measure to overturn the law to a referendum in November, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Last updated: April 2012

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