Senator Millett, Rep. MacDonald, and honorable members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, I’m Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco and here to support LD 1505 An Act Regarding Insured Value Factor Payments for Public Tuition Students Attending a Private School.
Public schools in Maine have a ‘tuition rate' that sending towns must pay when their students are tuitioned at public schools. For private schools, sending towns provide a voucher good for up to Maine's average per-pupil cost for secondary education in the previous year, plus what is known as the Insured Value Factor, an additional payment intended to cover depreciation of private schools' buildings. State law limits what private schools like town academies across the state, including my alma mater Thornton Academy in Saco, can charge municipalities when they accept students whose tuition is paid with public funds. The cap is equivalent to the average cost of educating a student in the state's public schools. On top of this Insured Value Factor had allowed private schools to charge an additional 10 percent, $800 per student (2010), to help cover the costs of building maintenance and construction. The state reimbursed municipalities for the additional fee. That number has been reduced by half to a mere 5%. Sending towns have the option of increasing the voucher to as high as 115 percent of the maximum rate, but may not reduce the voucher below that rate.
The 50% reduction in IVF resulted in a loss of $550,000 annually for Thornton Academy. Since 2009, that's $2.5 million in lost revenue. At the same time, the local student population has increased and the capital needs continue to climb with an aging infrastructure.
This bill represents a phased in system by increasing the amount a private school can charge for IVF one percent in 2013-2014, 2% in 2014-2015, and a final 2% in 2015-2016 to arrive at a total of 10% IVF funding. This number reflects the original agreed upon number prior to it being cut in a previous session.
But for me this isn’t about private versus public schools. Thornton Academy is Saco’s high school school while taking in kids from around the RSU 23 and even around the globe. Saco doesn’t have a public high school, so Thornton Academy acts through a public-private partnership. While the curriculum, clubs, sports, and multiple pathways for students is second to none, the only downside is the lack of funding for school construction. While full IVF funding isn’t a magic wand over the high costs of maintaining the aging infrastructure, it goes a long way to help town academies keep the roof over the heads of students of publicly-funded, privately supported education.
Thank you for your time and your consideration to this vital piece of legislation.