O'Neill Testimony Supports FY 2006 Budget Request

April 12, 2005
Text of April 11 Presentation to the Montgomery County Council

Good evening, Mr. Perez and members of the County Council. I am Patricia O'Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am testifying on behalf of the Board on the requested Fiscal Year 2006 Operating Budget for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). This budget will permit MCPS to build on the successes our students have achieved over the last five years and will lay the groundwork for even more students to achieve academic success in the future. The Board requests that you support the County Executive's recommendation for full funding of the Board of Education's budget request. The Operating Budget totals $1.7 billion and includes an increase of $109 million over the current FY 2005 budget-a 6.8 percent increase.

The Board of Education's Operating Budget Request for FY 2006 is aligned with the multiyear plan, Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence. This will be the third year of the Board's five-year plan to increase the academic rigor and accelerate learning for all students. This County Council, with the support of the County Executive, has been a steadfast supporter of our plan. For each of the last two years, you have funded more than 99 percent of the Board's request. That strong backing is enabling the Board of Education to place a quality teacher in every classroom with the necessary supports to help teachers provide quality instruction for every student.

The strong student performance achieved this year provides continued evidence that success in the reform and improvement efforts that you have supported so strongly for the last five years is systemwide and not limited to a few initiatives or subgroups of students. The Early Success Performance Plan includes comprehensive improvement in early childhood programs. These initiatives include prekindergarten, full-day kindergarten, the reading initiative, curriculum revision, reduced class size, and student assessments. These efforts have resulted in significant gains for students:

§ Seventy-five percent of second grade scores on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) were at or above the national average.
§ Scores improved across all racial and ethnic groups, with 60 percent of African American and Hispanic students scoring above the national average.
§ Ninety-five percent of elementary schools reached targets for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) set by the state.
§ The identification of gifted and talented students in Title I schools increased by almost 14 percent.

Increasing student achievement has not been limited to the primary grades:

§ The most recent mean SAT score of 1102 is the highest in more than 30 years in the district and the state with the highest participation levels in the history of the school system.
§ The 39 percent of seniors receiving at least a score of 3 on an AP exam (qualifying for college credit or advanced placement) is triple the national average.
§ The number of African American, Hispanic, ESOL students, and students eligible for free or reduced meals, who have taken AP exams has tripled in the last four years

The foundation for this long-term success is effective partnerships with parents, employees, and the wider community. This success also depends on building a high-quality workforce. The professional growth systems for employees include teachers, administrators, and supervisors, and next year will begin to include all supporting services employees.

The budget requested by the Board of Education will build on this record of success. It is based on unprecedented community input and involvement. The Board held three community forums in the fall, each attended by over 100 citizens. Follow-up opportunities with a variety of stakeholders offered the community numerous other opportunities to make suggestions for updating the strategic plan and aligning the budget with that plan. As a result, many valuable suggestions are included in this budget request.

The budget includes $26.5 million in improvement initiatives:
§ Class size reduction for all school levels, including a reduction in maximum class size guidelines in elementary school
§ Acceleration of full-day kindergarten to another 20 schools for a total of 93 schools
§ New investment in special education, mainly directed at increasing the proportion of special education students educated in the Least Restrictive Environment
§ Greater accountability measures and technology tools for teachers
§ Investment in school-based leadership, including 18 new assistant principals in elementary schools
§ Other initiatives to improve student achievement, including enhanced gifted and talented and IB programs

We have listened to our community and identified targeted improvements with proven track records.

MCPS continues to spend its money wisely. Central administrative costs remain at 2 percent of the budget, the third lowest proportion in Maryland. The proportion of the budget spent on direct classroom instruction is the highest in the state. Just last month, MCPS received the prestigious U. S. Senate Productivity Award for its success in implementing the Baldrige Quality Management Criteria in schools and in central offices. MCPS became the first large school system in the nation to receive this honor, the result of extensive review by outside examiners based on performance results. This award is spurring us to move even faster to implement continuous improvement.

The operating budget was developed through a zero-based process to identify resources that could be realigned to carry out the top priorities. Over the past five years, MCPS has made more than $53 million in reductions in the base budget, which provided most of the resources used for improvement initiatives.

The Board of Education asks that you provide full funding of the budget request. The 6.8 percent increase requested by MCPS is lower than nearly every district in the metropolitan area and lower than all other county agencies. The percent increase also is lower than the average of the last five years, and the percentage increase of the local contribution (5.1 percent) is lower than the average of the last five years.

This budget gives our schools the chance to build on impressive successes. The members of the Board of Education are confident that you will do the very utmost that you can, given fiscal constraints, to provide full funding of this budget for all the children of our county. The members of the Board and MCPS staff stand ready, as always, to work closely with the Education Committee and with the members of the Council.

Thank you again for allowing me to testify tonight and thanks for all the support that you have consistently given to the children of Montgomery County. I welcome your questions.

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