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Mayor Brennan opposes local charter school

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is publicly opposing the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science. In front of the Maine Charter School Commission, which is currently considering applications from potential charter school operators around the state, Brennan testified that "the Baxter Academy does not appear to offer anything new or different to Portland students. Rather, [it]...will divert critical resources away from the Portland School System."

His position is not surprising; Brennan is a longtime opponent of charter schools. In a League of Young Voters questionnaire, he summarized his stance on the issue:

As a state representative and state senator on the Education Committee I did not support charter school legislation. There is very little evidence supporting the need for a charter school law in Maine. Instead, I wrote legislation to create more alternative schools and allow for early college options. In fact, current Maine law allows local schools to form schools that can offer the same educational programming as charter schools. I believe public schools should offer an array of educational programs to meet the different learning needs of students. Both my children attended the Many Rivers program in Portland, and this was a positive option to have as a parent. Many Rivers, the Casco Bay High School, and the teacher-led Reiche School, show promising innovations for Portland’s School System.

For his part, John Jacques, Baxter Academy's (hopeful) founder, quoted Bob Dylan: "They were opponents of the law," he told MPBN. "They're opponents of implementation and they continue to be, unfortuntely, 'Standing in the Doorway and Blockin' up the hall,' as Bob Dylan would say."

(He's referring to "The Times They Are A-Changin'," in case you're wondering.)

Baxter Academy, which plans to be a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) school, is already accepting student applications, despite the fact that they haven't yet been granted approval by the state. The school is looking for 80 freshman and 80 sophomores for its inaugural year; state law limits them to 103 students from Portland and 48 from South Portland (but will probably end up accepting fewer from each district). 

In his testimony, Brennan claimed that Baxter could end up costing the Portland School System "hundreds of thousands of dollars this fall."

On his Bangor Daily News blog, reporter Seth Koenig said: "I can imagine a scenario in which we look back at this battle over Baxter Academy being the signature issue of Mayor Brennan’s first year in office, depending on how it pans out and what the impacts — good or bad — turn out to be for Portland."

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