by David Sturdevant
For the past few years, the Academy seal has included a phrase below it which reads, “INDEPENDENT, COMPREHENSIVE, GLOBAL.” These three words remind us of the traits that define Lincoln Academy and form the basis of how we operate and work with students. Most readers will know that the Academy is one of the oldest continually operating schools in the United States. Founded in 1801, LA, along with several other Maine schools, predates all public schools in the US. While operating as a school for over 215 years is quite a feat, I recently attended a conference where I saw that one school from England was founded in 1407!
As an independent school LIncoln faces certain challenges and takes advantage of certain opportunities. As a New England Town Academy (one of 21), the school operates independently, but also adheres to various regulations and statutes set by the state and federal governments. Because LA is a town academy, serving both publically and privately funded students, people are often curious about how the school is funded, accredited and regulated.
While most independent schools set their own tuition for day and boarding students, town academies’ fees for local day students are set by the state. In Maine, the state has developed a formula known as the maximum allowable tuition (MAT), which is based on the state average tuition in the previous year. In addition to the maximum allowable tuition, town academies in Maine receive what is known as an insured value factor (IVF). Historically, this was 10% of the MAT, but several years ago, the state legislature reduced the percentage to 5%. Since that time, the IVF has been tied by a formula to the percentage of increase in the average public school tuition rate, and has now risen to 6% of the MAT. Town academies receive the IVF because they do not qualify for state funding for capital projects that help campuses stay up-to-date. The IVF is intended to aid them in projects they encounter in the general maintenance and growth of their schools.
Town academies cannot set their own tuition for publicly funded students, and sending towns cannot pay them more than the MAT plus the IVF unless they have a contract with the school. In that case, through their contract, they can agree to pay up to 115% of the MAT. Some town academies have contracts with certain towns and/or school districts, but most, including Lincoln Academy, do not. Most day students who attend LA have choice, and bring a tuition with them that is set by the state, regardless of where they choose to attend high school.
While public school districts can seek to raise taxes in their communities to increase how much money they spend on education — i.e. per pupil rate, town academies cannot. However, because they are independent schools, town academies can raise funds through development and advancement work, such as annual funds and capital campaigns.
In my next column, I will continue to address LA’s independent, comprehensive and global nature. As always, should you have questions about Lincoln Academy, please feel free to make an appointment to meet with me. You may contact Carole Brinkler, Assistant to the Head of School at 207-563-3596, ext.102