BEHIND THE NUMBERS:
Defying voter-approved mandates, never fully funded schools
Prioritized tax breaks for the rich at the expense of public schools
Shortchanged schools by more than $1.3 billion, leaving towns to make up the difference
Blocked school meal expansion while Maine kids were among hungriest in the nation
Vetoed Student Loan Bill of Rights that would have protected Maine students
Fulfilled the state's commitment to cover 55% of the cost of K-12 education for the first time
Increased base pay and fast-tracked certification for teachers
Provided free community college for pandemic-impacted graduates
Made school meals free for all Maine children
Signed Student Loan Bill of Rights to combat predatory lending
As Governor, LePage shortchanged schools by $1.4B from FY12-FY19
Shortchanging schools to provide tax breaks for the rich
In 2004, Maine voters directed the state to pay 55 percent of the cost of public K-12 education. LePage denied the mandate every year he was in office. Instead of meeting the state’s obligations, LePage redistributed $631 million in revenue to the wealthiest Mainers through tax breaks, leaving local communities on the hook for the balance.1 The budgets passed during LePage’s terms shortchanged Maine schools by more than $1.4 billion and Maine towns were left to cover the shortfall through property tax increases or program cuts. Even when voters returned to the polls in 2016 to demand the state meet its funding obligation with a 3 percent surcharge on income over $200,000, LePage refused its implementation. Instead, he tried to siphon even more state funding away from public education and into private and religious schools.
Harming vulnerable students
LePage's cut and gut approach hit families with low income especially hard. In addition to state funding shortfalls that resulted in many communities raising property tax rates or cutting services, LePage simultaneously worked to disqualify Mainers from food assistance programs. During his tenure, Maine households were ranked among the hungriest in the country. Although research shows hunger negatively impacts educational outcomes, LePage railed against stagnating test scores while simultaneously blocking efforts to feed food insecure students. LePage not only bungled the implementation of a federal program to expand access to school meals, he vetoed legislation encouraging school districts to utilize federal funding to feed hungry kids in summer. LePage also vetoed a Student Loan Bill of Rights that would have protected Maine students as complaints against predatory lending practices soared.
Honoring commitments and expanding access
Fulfilling the state’s commitment to cover 55 percent of the cost of K-12 education was achieved for the first time in Maine’s history under the Mills administration. Reached without increasing taxes, the goal was met as a part of bipartisan budget agreements that also included increased school infrastructure funding, base pay raises for teachers, and free school meals for all Maine kids. Mills also leveraged federal pandemic relief funds to expand broadband access for rural students, upgrade health and safety infrastructure to allow schools to reopen promptly, increase funding for public pre-K programs, and fast track certification for new teachers. In addition to signing the Student Loan Bill of Rights to combat predatory lending, Mills boosted funding for workforce training equipment at Career and Technical Education schools. Additionally, recent high school graduates are eligible for two years of free community college in Maine, which has resulted in a 12 percent enrollment increase this year.
 Calculation by MECEP Action based on July 2022 analysis provided by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Estimate reflects total tax breaks for the top 20 percent of households by income.