State Budget Leaves MCPS $17 Million Short

January 27, 2006
ROCKVILLE, MD – A report from the Maryland State Department of Education indicates a shortfall of $17 million in funding for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in the proposed education budget of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.

The $17 million is included in the Thornton education reforms and is an integral part of the Fiscal Year 2007 operating budget recommended to the Board of Education by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. Without the $17 million, numerous initiatives designed to improve student achievement in elementary and secondary schools could be threatened, MCPS officials said Friday.

The superintendent’s proposed $1.8 billion operating budget includes $15 million in initiatives to expand full-day kindergarten to 17 schools, reduce class sizes in high schools, and provide additional literacy support for high school students, among others.

When the Thornton education reforms were enacted, the General Assembly included a provision to provide additional funding to 13 school districts in Maryland, including Montgomery County, under the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI). The GCEI was created to support districts that have a higher cost of educating its students due to such factors as housing, transportation, and crime. For 2007, GCEI funding for all of the districts would total $72 million, and the Montgomery share would be $17 million.

“This $17 million is critical to our plans to continue improving student achievement. The governor has repeatedly promised that he would fully fund the Thornton education plan. He’s breaking that promise to the people of Montgomery County by leaving this money out of his budget,” Weast said.

For the last three years, Gov. Ehrlich has not included the GCEI funds in his budget. Last year, the decision cost Montgomery County Public Schools $12.1 million and forced local taxpayers to fund the difference.

“Our legislators supported Thornton as a commitment to the citizens of our county that we would receive the GCEI funding. It is imperative that the General Assembly and the Governor keep that commitment and provide the $17 million to Montgomery County,” said Charles Haughey, president of the Board of Education.

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