- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A group of educators and legislators say Maine must eliminate the achievement gap between disadvantaged and wealthy students.

A blue ribbon commission recommends a statewide teacher contract, regional partnerships, higher pay to recruit and retain rural teachers and leaders and universal access to pre-kindergarten in higher poverty communities.

The commission says Maine test scores have plateaued in recent years and only 36 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in reading.

Maine schools face declining enrollments that have led to increasing per-pupil costs, and the achievement gap between wealthier and poorer communities is growing as poverty rates have increased among the state’s youngest learners.

Lawmakers can consider the recommendations as they debate GOP Gov. Paul LePage’s $6.8 billion two year budget proposal.

LePage supports school consolidation and reducing the number of superintendents.

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