Further Reductions in Class Size,Expanded Full-Day Kindergarten Highlight New Budget Initiatives

December 7, 2000
Further class size reductions, expanded full-day kindergarten, and enhanced professional staff development, as well as improved reading, writing, and math, are proposed as the centerpieces of the academic initiatives for the upcoming school year, as detailed in the budget recommendations to the Board of Education announced today [Thursday, December 7] by Superintendent Jerry D. Weast.

The formal presentation will be made to the Board of Education this evening at Montgomery Blair High School, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (An audience of more than 1,000 community and educational leaders, including teachers, is expected.)

The initiatives build on academic successes achieved this year and commitments to teachers and other employees for salaries and benefits. The initiatives also would provide support for students who need special education, counseling and other assistance, English language instruction, and alternative programs. Increased assistance for middle school instruction, technology, security, accountability, school administration, and building maintenance also are included.

"Now is the time to strengthen our efforts," said Dr. Weast. "Every indication thus far this year is that a powerful momentum is under way."

The academic initiatives continue the second year of a four-year plan focusing on the academic priorities approved by the Board of Education last year in response to the landmark findings and recommendations of a community and staff report, entitled Our Call to Action.

"Teachers and principals are helping their students achieve record-setting academic milestones on national, state, and local assessments," said Dr. Weast. "We need to do more than congratulate their success. We need to strengthen our investment and provide a quality education in every school."

The recommended budget includes a 2.3-percent increase of $27.6 million for new initiatives that continue major academic efforts begun this year. The total recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2002 is $1.3 billion, a 6-percent increase of $73.2 million, for an enrollment projected to be more than 136,000 students. The total budget may include an additional funding associated with the governor's teacher salary initiative.

The superintendent said the "most heavily impacted schools" require significant support, including reductions in class size, the expansion of full-day kindergarten, the focus on literacy and mathematics, and other assistance for quality teaching that he described as "breakthrough strategies."

"The key to our success is to stay focused on our priorities and to provide the support our teachers and principals must have in their schools," Dr. Weast said. "We need to pursue greater quality and rigor, close the achievement gap, and help a growing number of impoverished children and English language learners.

"These are the challenges that can be met by a united and supportive community, under the leadership of the Board of Education in collaboration with the County Executive, the County Council, and all of us who believe in quality education for children," he said.

The enrollment is projected to increase by 2,200 students to more than 136,000 students overall, a continuing record-setting pace that has propelled the school system to the 12th fastest growing district in the United States. The enrollment is projected to reach more than 140,400 students by 2006. The growth next year accounts for $15.2 million of the budget increase, including the opening of a new elementary school in Germantown. The cost per pupil would increase to $8,174.

Most of the budget (79.4 percent) is for instructional costs, with 14.5 percent for school support services. The percent for administrative costs (2.5 percent) is among the lowest in the state.

The largest source of revenue for the budget would be from county funds (78.5 percent). State aid for the system (14.9 percent of the total budget) is the third lowest in the state, at little more than $949 per student. The rest of the budget includes federal grants (2.5 percent) and other sources of funding including fees (1 percent) and enterprise funds (3.1 percent).

An estimated $5.9 million in savings and efficiencies is included in the budget, building on more than $220 million in savings since Fiscal Year 1991.

Summary of the Budget Recommendations

What is proposed to further reduce class size?

* Secondary school oversized classes would be reduced as part of a continuing effort to cut class size and allow more Honors and Advanced Placement classes at the middle school and high school levels by adding 63 teaching positions.

* Elementary school oversized classes would be reduced by adding 25 teaching positions.

* K-2 class-size reductions of 17:1 would be continued at 19 more schools with high numbers of at-risk students by adding 63.5 teaching positions.

* Special education class-size reductions would be initiated in classes for students with learning and academic disabilities (LAD), as part of a three-year plan to restore LAD class sizes to FY 1995 levels by adding 27 classroom teacher positions and 23 special education instructional assistants.

What about Full-Day Kindergarten?

* Full-day Kindergarten would be expanded to an additional 11 elementary schools with a revamped literacy-based curriculum and classes averaging 15:1 by adding 45 classroom teacher positions.

What help would be given to teachers and principals?

* "Skillful Teacher" development would be expanded to continue training for instructional staff in the Phase I schools of the new teacher evaluation system, adding four positions.

* The staff development substitute teacher program would be extended to give teachers time to work with colleagues, concentrating on schools in Phase II of the new teacher evaluation system.

* Consulting teacher positions would be expanded by 20 positions to help new teachers and those having difficulties in the classroom.

* Teacher recruitment and certification support would be expanded by two positions to serve an estimated 1,200 new teachers needed next year.

* Professional development for teachers would be expanded to respond to increasing state requirements in reading and mathematics.

* "Skillful Principal" development would be expanded, including the Workforce Excellence Institute to continue development of leadership skills.

How would reading and writing be improved?

* The full-time reading teacher initiative in every elementary school would be completed by adding nine reading teacher positions to serve 18 elementary schools.

* "Soar to Success" program would be expanded, including summer programs for middle school students to help close the gap.

How will mathematics be improved?

* "Hands On" Equations in Grades 3-5 would be expanded to another 42 schools to provide elementary school students with accelerated introduction to algebraic concepts.

* Singapore math pilot program would be expanded by adding a specialist to work with teachers in the pilot schools to improve instructional strategies.

What about other instructional improvements?

* International Baccalaureate programs would be expanded, adding one position.

* Increased rigor in middle school curriculum would be piloted in schools, adding 1.5 teacher positions.

* Two new high school signature programs would be added, with a third program funded from existing resources.

* Summer enrichment programs would be added to encourage middle school students to prepare to take more honors and advanced placement classes in high school.

* Northeast Consortium preferred choice programs would be preserved after expiration of current grant funding, retaining 8.7 staff positions.

What efforts would be made to remove barriers to learning?

* English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program would be enhanced by improving bilingual counseling and parent outreach through six additional staff positions.

* Emotional and behavioral support would be increased for students by adding 11.5 counselors in elementary schools, 10 counselors in secondary schools, six pupil personnel workers, support for high school guidance offices with five positions, and an upcounty alternative program (6.6 positions) for middle school students unable to succeed in the regular program.

* High school athletic programs would receive additional support for students.

What improvements are planned for special education?

* Psychological services in schools would be improved with six additional psychologist positions.

* Special education instructional assistants (SEIA) would be increased to provide additional time to work with students and teachers for the full school day, adding 57.3 positions.

* Elementary schools with a large number of special education programs would receive additional staff support through six positions.

* Early intervention efforts for students with learning problems would receive additional resource room support with six teacher positions.

* Class-size reductions would be made (see earlier reference).

How would partnerships be enhanced?

* Expansion of partnerships designed with the leadership of community representatives would be implemented to help make schools more family and community-friendly, with five positions.

What would be done to improve organizational excellence?

* Technology support would be improved including 14 more user support specialists and four instructional specialists to implement technology modernization in additional elementary schools; and nine positions for improved web, television, and email communications for schools.

* School security would be improved with six additional security assistants in middle schools and four additional security assistants in high schools.

* School building environment would be improved with 25.5 additional building service workers; a second air quality team for schools, including 10 positions; and increased maintenance support, adding three positions.

* Elementary school support would be improved with three additional assistant principals and 8.5 additional secretarial positions to respond to parent and staff concerns.

What improvements are being planned in accountability?

* Shared accountability would be expanded by six positions for accountability reviews, program evaluation, and other data support.

What additional savings and efficiencies would be made?

* Non-instructional programs savings and efficiencies of $5.9 million would be gained, an addition of more than $234 million to annual savings since FY 1991.

* Employee benefit costs savings would be gained including $2.4 million due to improved health care claims experience and plan design improvements, $1.9 million in savings in the retiree health plan due to improved investment performance in the pre-funded trust fund, and $1.1 million due to positive investment results in the retirement fund.

* Other savings and efficiencies would be made through utility savings and reduction of inflationary increases.

The Budget Process

* Board of Education public hearings on the budget on January 10 and January 18 at 7:00 p.m. (and sign-ups beginning December 26)

* Board of Education worksessions on January 23 and January 24 at 7:30 p.m.

* Board of Education budget action on February 1 at 7:30 p.m.

* Board Recommendation to County Executive and County Council on March 1

* County Executive recommends operating budget on March 15

* County Council holds operating budget hearings in April

* County Council approves operating budget on May 24

* Board of Education adopts final budget on June 12

Note: The "Citizens Budget" and a summary entitled "Our Call to Action: Continuing the Commitment" can be found on the web at the following links.

<<Back to browse