On Thursday we posted about the first statewide fully online virtual school to be approved in Maine (the Maine Connections Academy), but noted that there were two bills sitting with the legislature that had the potential to affect that school. LD1736 would have authorized the opening of a state virtual school to provide supplemental courses to students statewide, while simultaneously blocking the Maine Charter School Commission or any local school district from authorizing a virtual school until the state virtual school is “operational,” making it very unlikely the Maine Connections Academy would have been able to open.
The legislature passed the bill, but the Governor quickly vetoed it. His rationale is laid out in his veto letter, and is worthy of repeating in its entirety here:
6 March 2014
Dear Honorable Members of the 126th Legislature:
Under the authority vested in me by Article IV, Part Third, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Maine, I am hereby vetoing LD 1736, “Resolve, To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online and Digital Learning Opportunities through Their Existing School Districts.”
This bill seeks to place a moratorium on Maine Connections Academy, a 501c(3) non-profit, Maine-based school that has been approved by the Maine Charter School Commission. MCA provides a so-called “virtual” option on a full-time basis to students for whom the traditional school environment is not a viable option. This school can serve no more than 750 students—and then only in its fifth year—a total of .004 percent of the Maine students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. But, for these few hundred students, many of them emotionally or physically unable to access a “brick and mortar” option, this school is critical.
This bill also lays the groundwork for the State to move forward with a “blended learning” model wherein students in traditional educational environments can gain access to courses that are not offered in their school. This too is a critical piece of a well-rounded educational picture and it is already happening at more than fifty Maine schools. I continue to support the expansion of these efforts on behalf of our students.
However, blended learning and full-time virtual programs are two very different models. Both are important to certain students and they do not compete with one another. A moratorium on one does not benefit the other. It merely denies hundreds of children who need it access to their best educational opportunity.
For these reasons, I return LD 1736 unsigned and vetoed so that more Maine children will have the best educational opportunities for their specific needs. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it.
Paul R. LePage