(Last Updated November 20, 2012)
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- No requirement for Accreditation.
- Accreditation is permitted as one means of partially meeting the approval requirement.
- No requirement for Registration.
- No requirement for Licensing.
- Approval or recognition is mandatory.
- Attendance at a private school satisfies the compulsory attendance requirement only if the private school is approved for attendance purposes or is recognized by the State Department of Education as providing equivalent instruction. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §5001-A.
- A private school may operate as an approved private school for attendance purposes (basic school approval) if it meets hygiene, health, and safety standards, and is either currently accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools or meets applicable state requirements.
- Accreditation is one option a school may use to obtain approval for attendance purposes. Schools choosing the accreditation method of approval for attendance purposes must make accreditation reports to the commissioner of education on a timely basis and notify the commissioner of any determination made that the school is not accredited or is on probation. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2906.
- A second option a school may choose to obtain approval for attendance purposes is to comply with applicable state requirements regarding 1) immunization provisions; 2) English as the language of instruction; 3) courses required by law; 4) instruction in the basic curriculum established by the commissioner; 5) certified teachers; and 6) any additional approval requirements adopted by the state board and the commissioner. In addition, private secondary schools applying for approval for attendance purposes must meet the following requirements: a minimum school year; a sufficient school day length; a student-teacher ratio of not more than 30 to one; not fewer than two consecutive grades; and adequate maintenance for safely protecting records. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2902.
- The commissioner will periodically review all private schools that receive public funds to determine their compliance with the applicable provisions of the education code. The commissioner may, as a condition of approval, inspect any private school that applies for approval status. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §258-A.
- The commissioner may remove basic approval from any private school for failure to meet applicable approval requirements. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2904.
- A private school that has chosen not to seek approval by the State Department of Education may voluntarily provide information on an annual basis to the commissioner and/or superintendent to establish that students enrolled are receiving equivalent instruction in compliance with the compulsory school attendance law. The information should be provided in an annual letter signed by the chief administrator of the private school and include an affirmation that the school provides the basic curriculum by competent teachers for a minimum of 175 days or 875 hours; complies with fire, health, and safety laws; provides academic assessment and progress reports for parents; and provides attendance notifications to the local superintendent.
- A nonprofit institution may operate as an approved nontraditional limited-purpose school if it demonstrates a commitment to the educational process and to the state’s youths by having: 1) a governing board composed of a cross-section of the community; 2) an established educational plan; 3) a written curriculum with appropriate goals, objectives, and instructional strategies; 4) specific instructional time commensurate with the educational activities planned; 5) facilities that comply with state health, safety, and fire codes; 6) an instructional staff certified by the State Department of Education where appropriate, and endorsement by professional boards in areas where the state does not have certification standards or professional standards agreed upon by the department and the respective institution; 7) school health services that include a registered nurse in residence when students are in attendance, or the appointment of a school or consulting physician; 8) established written emergency and safety procedures, including periodic fire drills whenever appropriate; 9) unique up-to-date equipment necessary to the services provided; 10) a demonstrated commitment to work cooperatively with state public schools in an effort to meet the specific needs of Maine students regarding their aspirations; and 11) scholarship assistance for the state’s youths. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2907.1. Code Me. R. §250.
- Teacher must be certified by the commissioner to teach in any private school receiving basic approval, except those schools currently accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§ 2901, 13003.
- The chief administrator employed by a private school approved for attendance purposes is required to hold a principal’s certificate. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §13019-B.
- private school approved for tuition purposes may not employ a provisional teacher unless it has an approved, locally designed support system or has received specific authorization from the commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §13015.
- Only driver education teachers certified by the commissioner may be employed by an approved private secondary school to teach driver education. If a certified instructor is unavailable and the private school requests it, the commissioner may grant a temporary certificate to any person who holds a Class A license. Approved private secondary schools may contract with a commercial driver education school to provide driver education as part of the secondary school curriculum. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §8703.
Length of School Year and Days
- A private secondary school approved for the purposes of attendance must have at least 175 instructional days. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §4801.1
- Private schools approved for attendance purposes must provide instruction in the basic curriculum established by rule by the commissioner, including minimum time requirements and performance standards. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§2902.4, 4704.
- Private elementary schools approved for attendance purposes by the department must provide instruction in career and education development, English language arts, world languages, health education and physical education, mathematics, science and technology, social studies and visual and performing arts, as described in the parameters for essential instruction and graduation requirements subject to the schedule specified in section 6209. In addition, instruction in American history, government, citizenship and Maine studies requirements must occur and follow section 6209 specifications. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§2902.3, 4706, 4711.
- Private secondary schools approved for attendance purposes by the department must provide instruction in English, social studies, history, including American history and Maine studies, mathematics, science, fine arts, health, and physical education, and computer instruction. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§2902.3, 4706, 4722, 4723, 4724.
- The use of animals in public and private schools is regulated by statute. Vivisection of animals in K–12 schools is prohibited. Dissection of dead animals must be confined to the classroom and the students engaged in the study, and must not be for exhibition. Experiments on live vertebrate, except eggs, are restricted. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 7, §3971.
- English is the basic language of instruction in all schools except that, subject to the commissioner’s approval, schools may provide transitional instruction using bilingual techniques for students of limited proficiency in English and providing proficiency in English as a second language. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §4701.
- Private schools are exempt from the state’s criminal law prohibiting dissemination of obscene material to minors if exhibited for purely educational purposes. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 17, §2911.2.
Recordkeeping and Reports
- By April 15 and October 15 of each year, the principal of each private school must report to the commissioner the number of students attending the school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6004.
- A student is credited with attendance at a private school only if a certificate showing the name, residence, and attendance of the student at that school has been signed by the school administrator and filed with the school officials of the local administrative unit. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §5001-A.3.A.(2).
- Chief administrative officers shall keep uniform records of the immunization status of each student. The records shall be part of the student’s permanent records. By December 15 of each year, each chief administrative officer shall submit to the director of the Bureau of Health, on a form provided, a summary report of the immunization status of the students entering school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6353.5.
- A private secondary school receiving state funds, directly or indirectly, and a private school approved for tuition and attendance purposes must report annually, on or before July 15, information required by the commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2952. An annual audit must be furnished to the state auditor on or before September 1 of each year. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2953.
Health and Safety Requirements
- No chief administrative officer may permit any student to be enrolled or attend school without evidence of required immunization or immunity unless the parent or student provides a written statement that immunization may be medically inadvisable or a written statement that immunization is contrary to a sincere religious belief or opposed for moral, philosophical, or other personal reasons. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6353.3, 4, 6.
- Upon notice from a public health official that a student’s presence presents a clear danger to the health of others, a chief administrative officer shall cause the student to be excluded from school during the period of danger or until the student is immunized. Private schools may adopt more stringent immunization requirements. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6353.3, 4, 6.
- Unlicensed personnel at private schools may not administer medication, except as provided by the written prescription of a physician or dentist, or by the written permission of the parent or guardian. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §254.
- A state liquor store or an agency liquor store may not be established within 300 feet of any K–12 private school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 28-A, §351.
- It is a civil offense to disturb a private school during or out of school hours while a teacher or student is present, and is punishable by a fine of not less than $200 or more than $500. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6804.
- Possession of a firearm on the property of an approved private school is prohibited. A firearm may not be discharged within 500 feet of the property of an approved private school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6552.
- Amended rule governing physical restraint and seclusion effective July 1, 2012. The changes to this rule address (non-exhaustive list) enhanced definition of physical restraint; clarification of the level of personnel involvement; updated reporting deadline, documentation, and training requirements; and the deadline for nonregulatory guidance from the state department of education that is to be provided to schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §4502(5)(M).
- Municipalities may appropriate money to provide transportation of school children to and from nonprofit schools other than public schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A §5724.5.
- Municipalities may, upon request, appropriate money to purchase approved secular textbooks and loan them to pupils or parents of pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. The requests for textbooks submitted by nonpublic school pupils or parents will be forwarded to the nonpublic school for administrative convenience. The nonpublic school will prepare a collective summary of the individual requests and submit the summary to the school committee or board of directors. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A, §5724.6.
- Private schools approved for attendance purposes may participate in the State Assessment of Student Performance program with the approval of the commissioner and upon payment of the actual cost of the assessment. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6207.
- Private schools approved for tuition purposes and whose enrollment includes at least 60 percent publicly funded students, must participate in the Statewide Assessment Program. The assessment program measures on a sampling basis in alternate years the academic achievement of students in grades four, eight, and 11 in basic subjects, i.e. reading, writing, and mathematics, and potentially science and social studies. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6202.
- The commissioner regulates tuition rates for private special education programs that are publicly funded by the state. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §7302.
- The commissioner may require that special education programs in approved private schools comply with rules regulating the public schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, § 7501. It is the duty of the commissioner to define allowable special education services and the qualifications of individuals who provide special education services by regulation. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §7252-B.
- All special education programs offered by approved private schools must be 1) under the supervision of the school administrative unit responsible for the education of the enrolled exceptional student; 2) described in a master contractual agreement between the private school and the commissioner; and 3) approved in advance of the enrollment of any exceptional student. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §7252-A.
- Approved private schools providing special education services must submit reports as required by the commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §7252-B.
- The commissioner will investigate written complaints against private schools serving exceptional students according to adopted procedures. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §7206.
Nursing and Health
- Municipalities may appropriate money to provide physician, nursing, dental, and optometric services to pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools if available to pupils attending public schools. Services may be provided to nonpublic school students in the nonpublic school attended. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A, §5724.7.
- Municipalities may appropriate money to provide standardized tests and scoring services in use in the public schools to pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A, §5724.8. The State Department of Education offers technical assistance to approved private schools to aid in the establishment of school-based substance abuse programs and health education curricula. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6605.
- Health and remedial services, instructional materials, and equipment provided with appropriated public funds, as well as the admission of students to the nonpublic schools must be provided without distinction as to the race, creed, color, or national origin of the pupil and of their teachers. Instructional materials or instructional equipment may be loaned to pupils in nonpublic schools or their parents if similar instructional materials or equipment is available for public school students within a local school district. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A, §5724.9.
- The state is authorized to administer programs under the Child Nutrition Act benefiting private school students, provided the state is not required to appropriate state funds for meals served in private schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §6602.
- Private schools that enroll more than sixty percent of their students at public expense are required to adopt a policy on management of head injuries and begin implementation of the policy by January 1, 2013. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§254, 1001.
- The commissioner may contract with a private school for applied technology courses that meet the public secondary school standards. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §3002.
- There is no state policy at this time.
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- There is no state policy at this time.
- No tax on sales, storage or use may be collected upon or in connection to schools. The definition of a school in the state of Maine includes incorporated nonprofit elementary and secondary institutions. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 36, §1760.
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: The Maine Constitution states that it is the legislature’s “duty to encourage and suitably endow academies, colleges, and seminaries of learning within the state,” provided that the legislature has the right to grant any further powers to “limit or restrain any of the powers vested in any such literary institution, as shall be judged necessary to promote the best interests thereof.” Maine Constitution, Art. 8, Sec. 1.
The Maine Constitution provides that “all religious societies in this state, whether incorporate or unincorporate, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and contracting with them for their support and maintenance.” Maine Constitution, Art. 1. Sec. 3.
A municipality may not provide services, materials, or equipment for use in religious courses, devotional exercises, religious training, or any other religious activity. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 30-A, §5724.9.
- Programs for Financial Assistance for Attendance at Private Schools: Maine school districts that have no available public schooling pay to send students to approved private schools or to public schools in other districts; this practice is called Town Tuitioning. Private schools that receive students under town tuitioning programs must 1) meet the requirements for basic school approval; 2) be nonsectarian schools; 3) be incorporated under the laws of Maine or the United States; 4) comply with reporting and auditing requirements; and 5) if the school enrolls 60 percent or more publicly funded students, participate in the Statewide Assessment Program. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §2951. A school district may contract with a private school approved for tuition purposes for all or part of its secondary school pupils. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§1258, 2702-4.
Tuition payments to private schools approved for tuition purposes must be paid within 30 days of the billing date. If the tuition is not paid accordingly, the principal of the private school must inform the commissioner. The commissioner will pay the tuition due and deduct that amount from the state school subsidy to the school administrative unit owing tuition. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §5810.
Tuition rates charged to school administrative units for publicly placed students in private elementary and secondary schools are regulated. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §§5804-5806.
Private schools may adjust their tuition rates for the cost of removing architectural barriers to comply with the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with prior approval of the commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §5807.
Private schools approved for tuition purposes are eligible for innovative education grants to promote creative improvement in the schools of the state. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20-A, §17101.
Private schools approved for tuition purposes whose school enrollment is at least 60 percent publicly funded students may purchase surplus property through the Bureau of Purchases. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 5, §1813-A.
Private schools approved for tuition purposes are prohibited from unlawful educational discrimination on the basis of sex, physical or mental disability, or national origin or race. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 5, §§4553, 4602, 4604.
To be eligible to attend a receiving private school, students must be from a family residing in a sending district and gain admission to the school based on its customary admissions criteria.
- A child receiving home instruction that complies with state requirements is excused from attending school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §5001-A, sub §3A.(4).
- Groups of homeschooled students, not individual homeschooled students, can be organized, and that organization may then qualify, under Maine law, as a private or church school. This type of organization is a legitimate alternative for a group of homeschooled students.
Initial and Renewal Applications
- The student’s parent or guardian must provide a written notice of intent “to the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and to the commissioner within 10 calendar days of the beginning of home instruction.” Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §5001, A sub §3A.(4).
- The notice of intent must include 1) the name, signature and address of the student’s parent or guardian; 2) the name and age of the student; 3) the start date of the home instruction program; 4) a statement of assurance that the home instruction program will provide annually at least 175 days of instruction in the following subject areas: English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, Maine studies (in one grade level between grades six and 12), and demonstrated proficiency in the use of computers (in one grade level between grades seven and 12); and 5) a statement of assurance that the home instruction program will include an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §5001, A sub §3A.(4).
- The student’s parent or guardian must file a letter with “the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and the commissioner” on or before September 1 of each subsequent year of home instruction. The file must state the intent to continue the home instruction program and include forms of the annual assessment of the student’s academic progress. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §5001, A sub §3A.(4).
Assessment and Diplomas
- The following forms of annual assessment meet state requirements: 1) a standardized achievement test administered through the administrative unit in which the student resides or through other arrangements approved by the commissioner; 2) a test developed by the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and agreed to by the school officials of the administrative unit prior to submission of the written notice of intent that is appropriate to the student’s home instruction program; 3) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress by an identified individual who holds a current Maine teacher’s certificate; 4) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress based on, but not limited to, a presentation of an educational portfolio of the student to a local-area homeschooling support group whose membership for this purpose includes a currently certified Maine teacher or administrator; or 5) a review and acceptance of the student’s progress by a local advisory board selected by the superintendent of the administrative unit in which the student resides that includes one administrative unit employee and two home instruction tutors. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §§5001-A sub 3A (1)(4)(b).
- A student’s parent or guardian must keep copies of the notice of intent to provide home instruction and the file submitted each year, including the forms of annual assessment, until the home instruction program concludes. The records must be made available to the commissioner upon request. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 20A, §§5001-A sub 3A (1)(4)(c).
Public School Access
- A private school student is eligible to participate in public school cocurricular, extracurricular, and interscholastic activities at the discretion of the public school principal and if the private school is not a member of a statewide association that promotes, organizes, and regulates statewide interscholastic activities in both public and private schools.