We Can All Work Together
There has been considerable discussion recently about the regionalization of schools across Coos County and specifically in the Androscoggin Valley. The issues involved are complex and at times emotionally charged which makes communication about them all the more important. SAU 20 serves multiple districts and the school boards within the SAU represent diverse opinions on the subject of regionalization and consolidation of schools. What remains consistent for all of us, however, is our abiding commitment to providing the best educational opportunities for all students in the Valley.
Over the past 18 months, representatives of SAU 20 and SAU 3 have met to discuss collaboration and the expansion of opportunities available to our students. Open, honest discussions at these meetings have allowed for the development of a range of plans including the opening of Advanced Placement courses at both Berlin and Gorham high schools to any student in the Valley.
These meetings between the SAU ’s have also allowed for a discussion of the significant impact of state stabilization funding cuts on schools in the Valley. These cuts represent an annual loss in funding of nearly $230,000 for Berlin and $40,000 for the GRS Cooperative. Some in the community believe that the solution to these cuts in state funding is the consolidation of schools. Unfortunately, careful financial modeling and analysis reveal that this is not the case. Districts that currently operate at a size similar to our projected merged population spend on average the same per pupil as we do now. In fact, the scale of the shortfall generated by these state funding cuts, which are planned to continue on an annual basis over the next 23 years, simply can not be made up by the consolidation of schools.
If we are driven by our commitment to maintaining and building on the quality of education in the Valley, it is imperative that we help our elected representatives know what this loss of funding is doing to our schools and communities.
I believe that the meetings between SAU 20 and SAU 3 can build a foundation of trust that is important for many reasons. The meetings can help us build a stronger voice in advocating for a more fair and equitable school funding model. They will allow us to think creatively about new ways to support students in the Valley to advance and prosper. These meetings can also allow us to find real cost-saving measures in the future. Finally, once a more equitable state education funding structure is in place, the SAU’s can explore the potential for consolidation from a place of strength and mutual respect.
SAU 20 looks forward to continuing our work with SAU 3. We recognize the challenges that lay ahead for all of us and believe that we are stronger together.