Sen. Rafferty celebrates passage of Maine budget that increases state share of education funding to 55 percent

Posted: June 30, 2021 | Senator Rafferty

AUGUSTA — On Wednesday, the Maine Legislature passed a bipartisan state budget deal. One of the key measures included in the budget increases the state’s sharing of K-12 public education funding to 55 percent, as mandated by voters. This is the first time in 17 years the state has met this funding obligation.

In response, Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk, issued the following statement:

“As a retired educator, as well as a parent, I know how important quality public education is to set people on course for success. When voters said back in 2004 they wanted the state to kick in 55 percent of funds for our public schools, it was a clear call to invest in our students and their future. Reaching this goal has been a long time coming. When I first decided to run for office, standing up for students and teachers was one of my top goals. The fact that we were able to hit 55 percent, with bipartisan support, in my first year as legislator is just tremendous. I know this will make a real difference for our schools and for the taxpayers that help fund them.”

The budget passed on Wednesday includes several measures that support education in Maine, including the following:

  • Makes historic investments in public education: The budget fulfills the state’s commitment to Maine schools, municipalities and teachers by funding 55 percent of K-12 public education costs as outlined in statute. This marks the first time Maine has met the 55 percent threshold since  Maine voters passed a referendum in 2004 requiring the state to contribute 55 percent of funding for K-12 public schools. 
  • Supports school capital improvement projects: The budget also adds $45M to the School Revolving Renovation Fund so schools can afford to make critical health, safety and capital upgrades. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed areas that need repair in schools all across the state. These funds will support these repair projects and others needed to protect the health and safety of Maine teachers, students and school support staff. 
  • Addresses student hunger: The budget would make School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs available to all Maine students at no cost. Research has indicated that many families experiencing food insecurity do not qualify for school meals under the current eligibility guidelines. Given the projected increase in students likely to qualify for school meals in the wake of the pandemic, this will ensure that no student goes to school hungry.
  • Invests in Maine’s workforce training through Career and Technical Education (CTE): Maine has not updated equipment and necessary capital improvements since 1997. The budget will support these improvements at CTE schools across Maine so students have access to the technology and tools they need to train for today’s economy.
  • Supports higher education: The budget invests in the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System, and Maine Maritime Academy. It provides a 3 percent adjustment in funding each year to avoid tuition increases at each of the institutions, making it easier for Mainers to access workforce training and higher education.

The budget deal passed in the Senate on a vote of 32-2.