Ocean School bill approved for consideration next session

Oct 28, 2019

Augusta — The Legislative Council on Wednesday approved a bill to support continuation of the Maine Ocean School in Searsport.

LR 2885, “An Act To Strengthen Maritime Education,” would repeal a sunset provision that threatens the future of the maritime career-focused magnet school. The bill, introduced by Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, also would support the school by bringing Maine law more in line with the school’s structure.

Bills submitted for consideration during the Legislature's second regular session, which begins Jan. 8, 2020, must be approved by a majority of the 10-member Legislative Council. The council consists of the 10 elected members of legislative leadership.

Maine Ocean School opened for its second year this fall. One of only two public magnet high schools in the state, Maine Ocean offers study in marine science, engineering, technology and transportation.

School officials discovered this summer that the original statute establishing the school contained a "sunset clause" — a termination date that would have forced the school to close last month. They hadn't realized any legislative action was needed because there were enough students to open the school last year.

To remedy the situation, school officials worked with local legislators, including Herbig, to get an extension, which the Maine Legislature approved unanimously during its special session Aug. 26.

The Legislative Council-approved measure would prevent the situation from recurring.

Maine Ocean School is still accepting applications for this school year. Visit maineoceanschool.org for more information.

Emergency measures

Two other Herbig-sponsored bills also gained Legislative Council approval, one  to expand internet access, and another to promote technical education.

LR 2874, “An Act To Provide Funding for Broadband Internet Infrastructure in Unserved and Underserved Areas,” would allocate $15 million from the General Fund to expand access to reliable, high-speed internet.

LR 2875, “An Act To Provide Funding for Capital Improvements and Equipment for Career and Technical Education Centers and Regions,” would allocate $4 million from the General Fund to improve and purchase equipment for career and technical education centers. This funding would help prepare people for jobs in the trades.

The Legislative Council on Oct. 23 approved all three bills to be considered as emergency measures, which will be introduced in the 2020 session of the Legislature.

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