Decoding The Language in the New School Budget

Also considering the possibility of court challenges to LD 2003-HP 1489 some would say is a grab by the state of Home Rule authority.


                                                                                         Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Full disclosure- this article is by a legal layperson.

A recent story in the Boothbay Register about the expanded school budget delivers a sprinkle of catch-all terms such as “technology”, “curriculum”, “finance”, and “administrator”. Signals made in isolation allow the picture to be completed by each listener, analogous to a parlor game where a person whispers a word into the ear of whoever sits beside them, and at the end of the line, out comes a different word.

Concerns about overworked administrators, rising costs and financially strained taxpayers set the tone for an at times tense Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 school board meeting Dec. 6. The board came to discuss the proposed budget for the 2025 fiscal year, all while grappling with uncertainty as the district restructures its financial services.

The new proposed budget shows $2,103,704 in total expenditures, a $402,624 (23.7%) increase over the 2024 fiscal year.

Most of this year’s cost differences involve staffing, according to Superintendent Robert Kahler, who said administrators are stretched thin. The proposed budget includes 5-11% increases for existing staff salaries and benefits and hiring for new finance and administrative jobs.

The proposed budget also includes hiring an assistant superintendent/curriculum coordinator with salary and benefits around $122,000.

Recently the AOS98 boards repealed the local school charter, a work product of all the generations since the 1950’s, and replaced it with state law. Throughout the discussion of promoting the repealed and replaced school charter, there was not a mention of what is in state law, not even as it pertains to our public educational system, but I have been studying state law as an independent layperson-researcher for many years so the picture I create places the words in the context of state law, the stand-in for the lost local school charter.

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My independent research includes the State Constitution. I submit that our local school charter was amended by those who did not have the constitutional authority to do so since the Home Rule Amendment identifies the authority to amend charters as belonging to “the inhabitants of the municipality”, which means at a minimum the charter should have required approval by a public referendum.

Opponents can construct a legal argument that the Constitution doesn’t intend school charters, only municipal charters, but those words are not to be found in the Maine Constitution.

The bulk of the replacement school charter is about how municipal bonds are to be handled, otherwise, the replacement charter casts out everything and inserts the words “aligned with state law”.

I construct my picture out of the scattered words against the background of the new school charter synonymous with the Maine Revised Statutes, an educational system decided, not by the inhabitants of the municipality, but by the state, its tentacles now reaching just about everywhere. It has taken indefatigable persistent, never-ending effort for the state to get so far in achieving its goals as stated in the Governor’s Report of 1976:

The idea behind Home Rule is that the inhabitants of the community have a say in their community but the intent of removing the municipal referendum on municipal bonds is to restore authority to a governing elite, in the form of boards and private corporate partners of the state.

Eliminating the local referendum grants decision-making power to an elite governing class made acceptable by the words, “public-private relationships”. The centralized government gains control over localized authority, through wealth distributed as grants, tax credits, and subsidies. The central government could and should play a beneficial role in society but when the centralized government plots against the Constitution that governs it, it evolves into a totalitarian system. The Governor’s Report of 1976 is a record of such an intentional plot that continues to this day.

2022 was a watershed year for the transition to totalitarianism. The much discussed LD 2003-HP 1489 was passed alongside another arguably unconstitutional act, the Maine Space Corporation, which will use the public educational system as its workforce training facilities, and An Act To Amend the Education Statutes that strikes out every instance of the word “restructure” and replaces it with “innovate”, symbolic of throwing out the past and bending the rules to suit an agenda.

The Maine Space Corporation arguably violates Article IV Part Third Sections 13 & 14 of the Maine Constitution.

Article IV Part Third Sections 13 & 14

Together Sections 13 and 14 construct a separation of power between the private economy and the state, the basis of a free enterprise system, but the Maine Legislature has been flagrantly transgressing Article IV Part Third Sections 13 and 14 since it decreed in the seventies that centrally managing the economy is an essential government function. The two sections instruct the Legislature to regulate industry but not to charter and then operate a corporation or manage an entire state-wide industry like a conglomerate.

Free enterprise can operate only if there is a separation of power between the private sector and the state, but totalitarianism cannot co-exist within such a separation of power.

Through the combination of laws enacted in Maine in 2022, the state took another giant step toward totalitarianism and the statutory elimination of Home Rule authority.

Poking Holes in the Earth’s Ozone Layer.

The Maine Space Corporation, chartered by a special act of legislation as a non-profit organization, has big plans to manage a state-wide industry using the public educational system as its workforce training facilities starting in Kindergarten.

Science fiction tales of the past two centuries take us up to the present day and then continue the story of the future in outer space, where the elite ruling class saves itself while leaving the mess it created behind.

We can write new science fiction. In another version of the future, humanity collectively says no to carbon-burning, ozone-destroying new technology. In that alternative universe, we focus our attention on making our present-day technology planet-sustaining. We have so many problems to resolve in that area, such as the ships and planes used to transport goods around the world that currently run on carbon-burning fuels. Do we stop transporting as many goods or do we invent a new technology that runs on a different kind of energy? We can use wind power on the ocean, It’s been done since ancient history. Can we also put windmills on sailing ships? We can resolve our climate crisis because humanity is innovative! Humanity just has to be more than innovative. It also has to learn the wisdom to live in harmony with nature.

Had Boothbay voted for the demolish and replace plan, then Boothbay would likely have become one of the special schools for which the rules that govern the rest of the educational system are waived in 2022’s An Act To Amend the Education Statutes. To the degree that any of the entities are incorporated this exception to the general rules is an arguable violation of “Corporations shall forever be subject to the general laws of the state” (Article IV Part Third Section 14)

As I have heard, in 2021 plans to do needed repairs to the high school building and to add a security entrance were underway until anonymous investors led by Paul Coulombe stepped in to advance their plan to demolish and replace the mid-century school building. Mr. Coulombe led a fundraising drive to raise 2 million dollars to pay architects to design a new building in advance of a public referendum that would decide if the inhabitants of the municipality wanted to take the path being advanced by the investors, which was readily sold to the school board and administration as the leading and only option to promote and place on the ballot.

In the aftermath of losing the referendum, the narrative that justifies staff increases is that the current staff is over-stressed. One wonders what makes them so over-stressed. The 2022 budget passed in 15 minutes with one staff increase and no complaints about being overstressed. What happened in the space of a year was the attempt to pass a referendum to demolish and replace the existing school building. This required getting the entire school board and staff involved and invested in an all-encompassing psychological gestalt. It is surely stressful to make such involved plans for a future that rests on a public referendum which should have occurred at the outset, but the idea was that the 2 million dollars invested in the architectural design would be the selling point for the public referendum so the long process of planning for the desired outcome of the referendum had to happen first. The defeat of the public referendum after so much money, time, and organizing was invested is an equally stressful deflationary process.

But the stress will continue because the advocates of transforming our public educational system into a tool of the public-private state are not giving up on a course that has been pursued since the seventies, a course that has evolved the expanding wealth inequality of the seventies into the ownership class-working class divide of 2023, creating the new serfdom.

The building was only part of the plan. It would have been a great public subsidy to attract the private corporations that will be brought in to create the new curriculum. It’s a great setback that the new facility was rejected by a public referendum but there was also a great gain when the school charter, the collaborative effort of previous generations, mocked during the congressional testimony in support of repealing the local charter, was tossed out and replaced with state law, under which it is no longer required to have approval from boards or the public to negotiate terms of conditional gifts. No further need to sell plans to the inhabitants of the municipality. All that is required is to negotiate between Town officials and conditional donors and then get Legislative approval. Wasn’t the essential purpose of eliminating the public referendum, to ensure that power remains in the hands of the few? Things are moving ahead, as planned. Conditional gifts can allow the State and Co. to achieve its goals without any interaction with the public and that is why it is so important to fund a new staff of financial negotiators and curriculum administrators.

The sky is the limit on how much funding can be raised using conditional gifts so increasing the budget by 23.7% is worth it to attract the best negotiating talent. To that end, the school needs to offer a higher-than-average executive salary for an assistant superintendent/curriculum coordinator at 122,000 a year.

Zip Recruiter says “As of Dec 2, 2023, the average annual pay for an Assistant School Superintendent in Maine is $52,550 a year“, and most Maine schools have more students than Boothbay.

But the real role of the superintendent assistant is as the curriculum co-ordinator which interacts with the financial negotiator. The advocates of educational transformation need the best corporate talent in that area.

Zip Recruiter reports As of Dec 9, 2023, the average annual pay for a Corporate Financial Advisor in the United States is $102,134 a year….. Maine ranks number 5 out of 50 states nationwide for Corporate Financial Advisor salaries.

Superintendent Kahler calculates an assistant school superintendent’s pay at 120% of the national median income for a corporate financial advisor, consistent with the way the Legislature traditionally negotiates with its private relationships, trading public subsidization of the capitalization of ownership for jobs that pay “higher than the average for the area”. Incorporating the public schools into this redistribution of wealth system is a great innovation!

In the era of the new serfdom, affordable home ownership subsidies qualify at 120% of the median income for the area but the salary proposed for the assistant superintendent/curriculum coordinator is more than double the median income for the area so the school can’t offer subsidized home ownership to attract the best negotiating talent. However, the assistant superintendent can buy a home in default zoning territory and run a short-term rental industry on the side. It’s a great deal!

So what does a curriculum coordinator do?

Look to The Industrial Partnerships Act passed under Payl LePage in 2013.

D. Help educational and training institutions align curricula and programs to industry demand, particularly for high-skill occupations;   [PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW).]

My guess is they negotiate with private corporations and assist them in designing a curriculum for training their workforce in the public school system subsidized by the local property taxpayers. It can even entail policies assigning the rights of intellectual property of anything developed within the public facilities to the public-private partners. This right can be incorporated into the conditions of the “gifts”. Another great negotiating point! And since the statutes place no conditions on the conditions the donor can make, it can all be done in secret as well- another great negotiating point to attract investors donors.

A View from the other side:

The transfer of ownership to the private partners of the state has been built into the central management of the economy since the start.

The Governor’s Board of 1976 was composed of the leaders of large industries which would later become the formal partners of the state. It was they who crafted the narrative justifying the establishment of the centralized economy. At the time Maine had the fastest-growing small business sector in the nation but they were not invited to be part of the planning commission. Instead, large industries would decide what was best for small industries, which is what is best for large industries, no need to get more complicated than that!

The Governor’s Task Force report recommended that two complimentary corporations be chartered by the Legislature, The Maine Capital Corporation and the Maine Development Corporation. The statute chartering the Maine Capital Corporation included the following rationalization:

The Legislature finds that one of the limiting factors on the beneficial economic development of the State is the limited availability of capital for the long-term needs of Maine businesses and entrepreneurs. In particular, the lack of equity capital to finance new business ventures and the expansion or recapitalization of existing businesses is critical. This lack of equity capital may prevent worthwhile businesses from being established; it may also force businesses to use debt capital where equity capital would be more appropriate. This creates debt service demands which a new or expanding venture may not be able to meet successfully, causing the venture to fail because of the lack of availability of the appropriate kind of capital. source

This one-sided rationale was used to justify one-sided interests. Without consulting the small business sector the Legislature and its private partners decided it was better for Maine small businesses to use financing which transfers ownership to investors than to use debt capital. The fact that many small business owners chose the lifestyle because they value owning themselves doesn’t matter to Maine State Inc. and Co. because the state and Co. only cares about what serves the State and Co.’s self-interest and its goal of owning everything, thus, over time, the centralized economy manifested the ownership class-serf class divide in Maine.

What do do about the school?

I submit that we no longer have a public school system since once our school system is governed by state law pursuant to the replacement charter, we lose local control.

Instead, our community is left with an industrial building that State and Co. want to turn into an industrial training center for private interests. However, under Home Rule, the municipality can lease or sell the building to a responsible corporation. That means the corporation is responsible for what takes place in the industrial property. The Constitution doesn’t say that the municipality can use industrial buildings to run its own business. Everything I say is speculation but when talking about hiring new staff in financial and curriculum administration at large expense, it sounds like a plan for running a business offering workforce training to private industry. The fact that the Constitution says the municipality can sell or lease the business to a responsible corporation implies that the private sector runs the business and not the municipality, and therefore such a business cannot be financed by the taxpayers.

My preference is that the midcentury school be historically preserved. There are organizations such as Mid Century Modern Preservation dedicated to preserving mid-century architecture. This might be a source of funding for making repairs:

Midcentury Preservation Society is a non-profit organization that is organized and operated exclusively for the purpose of preservation of the midcentury design movement of the 1900s in accordance with Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  More specially,  Midcentury Preservation Society is dedicated to preserving midcentury inspired architecture, art, design, furniture, and entertainment for the era 1933 to 1965.

I would prefer that the building be leased rather than sold. It could be leased to the State and Co. and turned into a community college so that instead of using the municipality to subsidize the workforce training costs of private industries, private industry pays rent to the municipality for the use of its facilities.

State and Co. is not the only option. There is the consideration of whether an isolated peninsula is the best location for a community college. The facility should be open to other options. It would be nice if the inhabitants of the municipality could have a vote on it.

Back in the 1970’s the State and Co. represented their transformation of government as done for the sake of small businesses but today small businesses are part of the economy that subsidizes the large businesses and the State and Co tells us that everything they do is done for the sake of the workforce which has evolved into a non-property-owning class, each year becoming more consistent with the definition of a serf:

a member of a servile feudal class bound to the land and subject to the will of its owner Merriam Webster

The Boothbay Regional Development Corporation, developers of the concentrated housing zone for affordable housing, mandated by the State and Co., has stated that it will retain ownership of all the land, even land occupied by the few housing units that will be privately owned. The homeowners association will govern it. The homeowners are the non-profit corporation-private equity investors partnership and a few others.

If education can be used for workforce training for large businesses, then the same should hold for small businesses. I propose that It would be karmic justice to recognize small businesses as places of learning since the small business sector was growing at a faster rate in Maine than in the rest of the country before central management came to their rescue.

My vision for Andersen Design’s productivity assets includes a glaze-making design and research center and a Museum of American Designer Craftsmen which would serve as a place for the community to congregate. This is analogous to the early marketplaces of medieval times. In the earliest days, the sellers were producers, and the markets were located around the church.

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The community should have an educational system that offers a general holistic education but since we have lost our local school charter and control of our school has been transferred to the state and the state’s private partners, we can’t call it a public school if we want to have a say in what goes on. We have to call it something else just as the State and Co. is planning a community college and calling it a public school to get the public subsidies. Perhaps the students will have to be sent to schools in other municipalities but that should not stop us from developing a unique educational culture on our Peninsula. It’s not only for the sake of education it is also for the sake of attracting a younger demographic that wants to put down roots somewhere. Try something different- listening to what the younger generation wants! One strong movement within that demographic that isn’t being served at all by the current housing plans is the remote working movement. To not take in what the remote working movement wants is the equivalency of not considering that small business owners want to own themselves.

My vision includes a plan for restoring ownership to the working classes. Fiscal sponsorship is also an alternative to debt financing but it does not require a transfer of ownership. It won’t be easy. I am a first example of this plan since I am fiscally sponsored to raise tax-deductible funds for my project as described on the Field, and I can assure you it is slow going.

Mackenzie Andersen is a sponsored artist with The Performance Zone Inc (dba The Field), a not-for-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization serving the performing arts community. Contributions to The Field earmarked for Mackenzie Andersen are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For more information about The Field, or for our national charities registration, contact: The Field, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 906 New York, NY 10038, phone: 212-691-6969. A copy of our latest financial report may be obtained from The Field or from the Office of Attorney General, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

There is another very interesting development reported in a newer story in the Boothbay Register about the Town of Edgecom’s considerations of the state’s new municipal ordinance mandates. The story brings up what the Town of Ellsworth is doing:

“Graham describes Ellsworth’s approach as “unique” by implementing less restrictive state housing standards with more restrictive local ordinances limiting short-term rentals.”

In other words, the Town of Elsworth is saying no to the state‘s usurpation of Home Rule rights. The Town of Elseworth has a Town Charter which puts it in a stronger position to challenge the Totalitarian State vs Home Rule.

LD 2003-HP 1489 was enacted as an emergency

The Maine Constitution, Article IV, section 16 says this about emergency measures:

An emergency bill shall include only such measures as are immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety; and shall not include (1) an infringement of the right of home rule for municipalities, (2) a franchise or a license to a corporation or an individual to extend longer than one year, or (3) provision for the sale or purchase or renting for more than 5 years of real estate.

Can the entire act be thrown out if it is challenged as inconsistent with an emergency enactment? If the court declares a stay until the issue is legally resolved, it would give municipalities more time to carefully consider what is the right action to take.

About Susan Mackenzie Andersen

I was blessed with being raised in this amazing business in a home that uses ceramic slip-cast production as an art form. My mission is to set this business up so that others can enjoy the same lifestyle while benefitting from what Andersen Design created. Follow me on my substack blog, Mackenzie Andersen's The Individual vs The Empire! I write about the public-private-non-profit-profit wealth concentration and redistribution industrial complex - and then I dream a better world.

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