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Education Options in the States: State Programs That Provide Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Elementary or Secondary Schools
Revised February 2009
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Maine

15. Maine—Town Tuitioning

Program type: Scholarship-like tuition assistance for students in small towns and rural areas

Description: Maine school districts that have no available public schooling—normally, districts in small towns and rural areas—pay to send students to approved private schools or to public schools in other districts. Private schools that receive students under the town tuitioning program must meet basic approval requirements, be nonsectarian, and be incorporated under Maine or federal law. Schools that enroll 60 percent or more of their students via the tuition assistance program are subject to the statewide assessment program to evaluate student academic achievement. To be eligible to attend a receiving private school, students must be from a family residing in a sending district and gain admission to the school based on its customary admissions criteria.

Amount of assistance: For students attending approved private elementary schools, the maximum tuition payment by a sending district is the state average cost per public school student (the "tuition rate"). For students attending approved private secondary schools, the maximum tuition payment is the lesser of the state average cost per public school student or the per-student cost of the private school (the "tuition rate"), plus a specified insured value factor amount for private schools located in Maine. For the 2007-08 school year, the maximum tuition rate for students attending private elementary schools was $6,450; for students in private secondary schools, the maximum tuition rate was $8,039.

Number of participants: As of Oct. 1, 2007, 14,012 students received tuition assistance to attend a private elementary or secondary school for the 2007-08 school year.

Authorizing statute: 20-A Maine Revised Statutes §§2951-2955; 20-A Maine Revised Statutes §5204; 20-AMaine Revised Statutes §5801; 20-A Maine Revised Statutes §5806

Legislative history: The tuition assistance program predates Maine statehood and began operation at a time when responsibility for secondary education in Maine was assumed primarily by private schools known as "town academies." The tuitioning program was first codified under Maine's Free High School Act of 1873, which allowed towns that opted not to build public secondary schools to pay tuition for students' continued attendance at the academies. In 1909, a more expansive law was signed into law requiring such towns to pay tuition for students' attendance at approved private schools. In 1981, the Maine state legislature decided to exclude religious schools from participation in the program.

Judicial history: In April 1999, the Maine Supreme Court found the program's exclusion of religious schools to be in keeping with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in Bagley v. Raymond School Department. In May 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reached a similar decision in a separate case, Strout v. Albanese. In October 1999, the U.S. Supreme Courth opted not to review either decision. On April 26, 2006, the Maine Supreme Court ruled again to uphold the exclusion of religious schools from participation in the program, in Anderson v. Town of Durham. On Nov. 27, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Anderson v. Town of Durham case, therefore letting stand the lower court decision allowing the exclusion of religious schools.

For more information, see: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/20-a/title20-Ach117sec0.html.


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Last Modified: 04/30/2009