Maine - Town Tuitioning Program
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Maine – Town Tuitioning Program

Maine – Town Tuitioning Program

Maine’s Town Tuitioning Program is the second oldest school choice program in the nation. The program, launched in 1873, allows students from a town without a public school to attend either a public school in another town or a non-religious private school. On this page, you can learn more about the program details, funding, eligibility, legal history and more.

Program Fast Facts

  • 5,727 participating students (2015–16)

  • 3 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 64 participating schools (2015–16)

  • Maximum voucher value (2017–18): $8,771 (K–8), $10,887 (9–12) (2017–18)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 61 percent (K–8), 80 percent (9–12) (2017–18)

Program Details

Maine’s Town Tuitioning Program Participation

Students Participating
School Year Ending

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program's details.

Many small towns in Maine do not operate high schools, and some do not have elementary schools. Students in those towns are eligible for vouchers to attend public schools in other towns or non-religious private schools, even outside the state. The “sending” towns pay tuition directly to the “receiving” schools. Although most towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one school.

Student Funding

Sending towns pay tuition directly to the receiving schools. Public schools in Maine have a tuition rate that sending towns must pay when their students are tuitioned at public schools. For private schools, the tuition rate for elementary students may not exceed the average per-pupil cost on a statewide basis. For secondary pupils, the tuition rate is Maine’s average per-pupil cost for secondary education in the previous year, plus an additional payment intended to cover depreciation of private schools’ buildings. Parents may supplement that voucher with their own money. Voucher values vary from county to county based on current per-student funding levels. Sending towns have the option of increasing the voucher to as high as 115 percent of the per-student funding, but may not reduce the voucher below that rate.

Student Eligibility

Students must live in Maine and reside in an identified sending town that does not have a public school at their grade level. Although most towns allow parents to choose which schools will receive their students, some towns send all their students to one school.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Maine’s town tuitioning is very restrictive on eligibility; students qualify only if their home districts do not have public schools. On funding power, Maine’s program does well, as per-pupil funding can equal the average cost statewide and even can go as high as 115 percent of the child’s current funding. Although the program does not place overly burdensome regulations on private schools, it does prohibit participating families from choosing religious schools. Maine’s town tuitioning would benefit more families by removing that restriction and not limiting student eligibility to their home districts’ schooling arrangements.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
  • Geographic Limit: District (without elementary or high school)
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Voucher Cap: $8,771 (K–8) / $10,887 (9–12)
  • Testing Mandates: Conditional – State


School Requirements:

  • Meet the requirements for basic school approval
  • Be nonsectarian
  • Comply with reporting and auditing requirements
  • Participate in the statewide assessment program if enrolling 60 percent or more students under the Town Tuitioning Program
  • Release copies of all student records for students transferring from the private school to the school unit, upon the request of a school unit
  • Report annually to the commissioner any information they may require

Legal History

In 1981, the Maine legislature banned religious schools from participating in the Town Tuitioning Program that was first established in 1873. In 1999, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the exclusion of religious schools. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review. After the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of vouchers in Cleveland, the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, and Maine families again asked a Maine court to overturn the 1981 law, but the exclusion of religious options was upheld. Anderson v. Town of Durham, 895 A.2d 944 (Me. 2006).

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