RSU-12: Stay the Course or Withdraw?
Which road will the yellow school bus travel?
On June 12, Westport Islanders will vote on whether Westport Island should begin the process to withdraw from RSU-12 (Regional Supervisory Union 12). The ballot question is:
Do you favor filing a petition for withdrawal with the Board of Directors of the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit No. 12 and with the Commissioner of Education, authorizing the withdrawal committee to expend $10,000, and authorizing the Selectmen of Westport Island to issue notes in the name of the Town of Westport Island or otherwise pledge the credit of the Town of Westport Island in an amount not to exceed $20,000 for this purpose?
Proponents of withdrawal argue membership in RSU-12 has been more costly than anticipated. Westport Islanders are paying significantly more than other jurisdictions: partly because of higher property valuations on the Island than in other RSU-12 towns, and partly because the cost-sharing formula does not account for declining Westport enrollment. Given that Westport students have “school choice,” Island students can go where they wish; and there are other options for supervisory administration that make more sense from a cost/benefit analysis. They believe one of these other options may save voters up to 20% on their property taxes. Westport Island Cost Assessment
Those arguing against withdrawal ask voters to give the evolution of RSU-12 a chance: a withdrawal petition now is premature. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and cost figures and formula recalculations are in the process of shaking down to account for student count and cost per student which could result in the same outcome as a time- and money-intensive study process. There are now programs available in Wiscasset schools that had been cut prior to supervisory union streamlining, and the school’s scores on standardized achievement tests are improving – an indication that our students’ education is improving. Additionally, Wiscasset is also voting the withdrawal question on the 12th; and the outcome of that vote will have implications for Westport’s costs. Westport can vote on a withdrawal petition at a future date if anticipated cost-sharing recalculations do not improve Westport’s cost burden. Westport Island and RSU-12
Parents have expressed concerns about any risk that children would have to change current schools where they are adjusted — and about transportation. As one parent said, “school choice for working parents without the money or flexibility to arrange private transportation means: where the school bus goes, is where the student goes.” Now, most students go to Wiscasset. Families polled by an ad hoc research committee would like to keep their children in Wiscasset — but they are not insensitive to cost issues. Ad Hoc School Research Committee
Island voters benefited from a May 31 town forum featuring a debate of pros and cons. Dennis Dunbar, Westport Island Budget Committee, presented the case for withdrawal; and Richard DeVries, Westport Island RSU-12 School Board Member, presented the case against withdrawal. Both seem to agree that Westport Island’s cost burden is excessive. The basic question seems to be: Do we scrap the current structure in favor of another to grapple with and contain costs? or, Do we stay the course and fight for an equitable cost formula within the RSU-12 structure that we have participated in shaping?
Tomorrow, June 12, is voting day: help the Island make a decision that represents you. The polls will be open at the Old Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.