School consolidation efforts

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Governor Paul LePage has signed an executive order to direct state funds to school consolidation efforts.

This comes at a time of rising education costs and declining student enrollments. LePage's order notes Maine's public school expenditures increased to $2.2 billion in the fiscal year that ended in 2015. LePage says that's an almost a $480 million dollar increase over the past decade even though student enrollment decreased by 23,000. The governor says the consolidation and regionalization of Maine school units will decrease costs and improve education.

The order directs the Department of Education to identify taxpayer funds that haven't been dispersed yet and distribute the money to schools this school year through a competitive bidding process. LePage also directed the department to propose a bill authorizing a bond covering debt service for regionalization projects.