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Budget Recommendations Respond to the "Call to Action" for Improving Teaching and Learning in All Schools
The total recommended operating budget for Fiscal Year 2001 is $1.2 billion, including grants and enterprise funds, an overall increase of $81.2 million or 7.3 percent more than the current year. Most of that increase ($51 million) is for continued enrollment growth, negotiated agreements with employees, inflation, and other required costs.
Most of the improvements provide more school-based assistance for teachers and principals and respond to the need to improve student achievement throughout the school district and close the performance gap by race and ethnicity. For example, on-site staff development teachers in every school will be able to provide in-classroom training for teachers in instructional strategies and best practices. A cadre of permanent substitute teachers who will provide enriched instruction will allow teachers to engage in intensive training while minimizing disruption to their classes.
Class size reductions -- with ratios of 17 to 1 -- in Kindergarten through Grade 2 over a three-year period in high impact schools will allow teachers to have more focused instruction for students. A comprehensive full-day Kindergarten program, with a revamped curriculum for both full day and half-day programs, is intended to help teachers assist at-risk students.
Literacy teams in every school, along with targeted intervention programs and specialized efforts to accelerate instruction, will assist schools in reading, writing, and mathematics. Another initiative calls for an improved "decision support system" that will provide student achievement data and other school-based information for teachers and principals in a timely and convenient manner. A team of "consulting teachers" also would be available to help new teachers and those having difficulty in the classroom.
Several initiatives in collaboration with Montgomery College are designed to prepare students for success after high school. Other initiatives strengthen partnerships with interagency and community organizations focused on early childhood preparation for school.
"Our schools need help," said Dr. Weast in proposing the budget to the Board of Education. "Class sizes can be decreased, more teachers can be hired, and training and resources can be focused so that all schools have the capacity to implement successful instructional strategies, a stronger curriculum, higher standards and greater accountability.
"Repeated budget cuts, program reductions, and elimination of critical support for teachers and principals over the years have eroded essential services for students. My proposals would redirect existing resources to help schools and target the activities of all staff on ways to improve student achievement."
Dr. Weast praised the many successful schools, outstanding teachers, principals and support staff. "But we are a long way from ensuring that every student in every classroom in every school receives high quality instruction and support every day. There are significant differences between schools and individual classes," he said.
Initiatives also focus on accelerating the instructional program, including expansion of the William and Mary reading initiative, the Singapore primary math pilot, the "Hands-On" Equations program in Grades 3-5, an enhancement of the Algebra 1 initiative in secondary schools, and the provision of graphing calculators for high school students unable to afford them. In addition, greater effort will be given to provide students with extra help, including expansion of the Reading Recovery Program, Soar to Success, and summer math programs.
The overall budget proposal includes $5 million in savings gained from increased efficiency in areas such as the employee benefit plan and utilities not affecting instructional programs, adding to a cumulative $210 million in annual savings since 1991.
The new program initiatives in the proposed budget are organized around the six trend benders. They include $11.1 million for workforce excellence and strengthening shared accountability; $11 million for advancing literacy in reading, writing and mathematics (including $1.1 million directed toward exceptional learners); $4.2 million for early success, including $2.3 million for class-size reduction in grades K-12); $1.3 million for programs to advance family- and community-friendly partnerships; and $2.6 million for organizing school assets for success, including security, technology, and environmental improvements.
The next step now is for the recommended FY 2001 operating budget to be considered by the Board of Education before going to the Montgomery County Council and the county executive on March 1, 2000.
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