Robbie Feinberg

Education News Producer

Robbie grew up in New Hampshire, but has since written stories for radio stations from Washington, DC, to a fishing village in Alaska. Robbie graduated from the University of Maryland and got his start in public radio at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Before arriving at Maine Public Radio, he worked in the Midwest, where he covered everything from beer to migrant labor for public radio station WMUK in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Ways to Connect

Local workforce officials argued in court on Monday that Gov. Paul LePage needed to release about $8 million in federal job training funds and said they were already affecting job seekers across Maine.

The lawsuit, from the regional workforce board Coastal Counties Workforce Inc., is asking LePage to release the funds from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. LePage decided to withhold them earlier this year due to disagreements over the structure of Maine’s workforce boards.

Tempers flared Friday between local economic development directors and state officials over changes to state policies, as well as the governor’s refusal to release more than $8 million in federal job training funds.

Federal funds are supposed to be distributed to local workforce boards across the state, which work with service providers to train tens of thousands of job seekers. Currently, less than 40 percent of the funds to local boards go to direct job training and tuition. Much of the rest goes toward case management and counseling.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

At most any high school in Maine you will find Advanced Placement classes, which are more challenging, and designed to help students prepare for college. Nationally, minority students have often been underrepresented in many AP classes — but one Maine high school has transformed theirs, and welcomed in many more minority students in the process.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

In Oak Hill High School’s efforts to implement new, proficiency-based graduation requirements, one department is held up as a prime example of what this new kind of education should look like. It’s not math, English or science — but physical education.

Maine’s first-year high schoolers this year will make history. They will be the first class that needs to meet a new requirement in order to graduate four years from now — they’ll have to demonstrate that they are proficient in a number of standards in order to receive a diploma.

This is the first in an extended series of reports on how this law is changing the way schools operate called “Lessons From Oak Hill,” focusing on the experiences of Regional School Unit 4, northwest of Lewiston.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Students entering high school this year in Maine will be the first in the country to graduate with a new kind of diploma. Instead of amassing a set number of credits, they’ll need to show that they’re “proficient” and meet certain standards.

It’s a change that’s been nearly a decade in the making. But some educators are still worried about what it will mean for students and teachers.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Faced with a choice of two proposals, Portland voters came out overwhelmingly in support of a $64 million bond Tuesday night to renovate four of the city’s public elementary schools.

Nearly two-thirds of Portland residents supported the project, which will renovate the city’s Longfellow, Reiche, Presumpscot and Lyseth elementary schools. Currently, the schools have problems such as overcrowding and unmet structural issues.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

For years, businesses in Maine have feared the coming of the “silver tsunami,” when thousands of baby boomers are projected to leave the workforce, expected to take place over the next few decades.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

One of Maine’s regional workforce boards is suing Gov. Paul LePage and Labor Commissioner John Butera over the state’s decision to turn down about $8 million in federal funds for job training.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Last month, Gov. Paul LePage informed the U.S. Department of Labor that he would no longer accept about $8 million in federal job retraining funding for thousands of unemployed workers.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

It’s no secret that populations are shrinking on some of Maine’s isolated island communities, such as North Haven and Monhegan. More and more island residents are often older, with no kids, and present only during the warmer months.

Four years from now, the way Maine students are awarded diplomas will change.  The number of classes they pass will no longer matter.  Instead, they'll have to meet specific standards in up to eight subject areas.

Educators from around the state spoke out about the new diploma rules at a public hearing in August.  And the state is listening to their concerns.

Remember the school consolidation effort that was launched 10 years ago in Maine? Some districts would rather forget it, but the state is about to ask them to try a new initiative.

The state budget bill passed in July bolstered education funding by more than $160 million, but also established rules around the creation of a new system for sharing educational services across districts. Supporters say it will give kids more opportunities, but some school officials are having doubts.

Ten years ago, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed a law changing the structure of education across Maine, forcing districts to consolidate with schools in nearby towns as a way of saving money. But a decade later, the consolidation experiment has led to more conflict than success in many districts.

Pete Webster’s Spanish class at Whittier Middle School in Poland begins quietly enough. Webster introduces a few vocab words to his students, and they repeat them back. But about five minutes in, Webster picks up a guitar and, soon, the classroom becomes a whirlwind of sound.

The state Department of Education is proposing to shift the responsibility for providing services for 3- to 5-year-old children with disabilities back to local school districts.

The state says the current system isn’t working, but critics of the proposed change say it could place a larger financial burden on local schools.

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