Board of Education Approves $2.23 Billion Operating Budget Request

February 25, 2013
Board Seeks 2.65% Increase;
Budget is Less Than 0.7% Above Mandatory Funding Floor

The Montgomery County Board of Education approved a $2.23 billion Operating Budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, a 2.65 percent increase over the current year’s budget and less than 0.7 percent above the minimum funding floor required by state law.

The budget will allow Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to manage its continued enrollment growth while helping the district to re-energize its efforts to narrow the achievement gap and prepare for the future. On March 1, the Board will submit its budget request to the County Executive and the County Council for consideration.

“This is a thoughtful, fiscally responsible budget that will allow us to keep up with our growth, while making strategic investments in key areas,” said Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay. “I want to thank the MCPS staff, parents and community members for helping us develop this budget request and I look forward to working with the County Executive and the County Council in the coming months.”

The Board’s budget request represents a $57.5 million increase over the current FY 2013 budget, and the majority of that increase will simply allow the district to serve an additional 2,300 students next school year. The budget also calls for investing in key areas, such as mathematics instruction, middle schools, professional learning for staff and the strategic restoration of positions that have been eliminated over the past several years.

Negotiations with the district’s three employee associations are nearing completion. The Board’s budget sets aside $18.6 million for possible compensation increases, pending the outcome of the negotiations.

The Board’s budget is just $9.97 million over the state’s minimum funding floor—called Maintenance of Effort—which requires the county to fund education at the same per-pupil level from year to year.

“The Board and MCPS leadership have taken great care to bring forward a reasonable budget request that balances the needs of our students with our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer funds,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “We must continue to make investments in our education system in order to secure the economic future of our county and our state.” 

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is expected to release his FY 2014 Operating Budget recommendation to the County Council on March 15. The Council will hold public hearings in April before approving a final budget for MCPS in May.

Building the Budget

In December, Dr. Starr submitted to the Board his initial budget recommendation, which was created in collaboration with the three MCPS employee associations—the Montgomery County Education Association, the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, and the Service Employees International Union, Local 500—as well as representatives from the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.

The Board held two public hearings at which parents, students, staff and community members gave feedback on the superintendent’s proposal. The Board also held two work sessions on the budget and
asked more than 75 specific questions about the budget and MCPS operations.

Last week,
Dr. Starr submitted an amended budget recommendation for the Board’s consideration. The amended budget identified more than $15 million in savings, mostly from reduced employee benefit costs, and made additional strategic investments based on input from the community and the Board. Among the investments in the amended budget are the addition of school psychologists, counselors, maintenance workers and high school teachers; the expansion of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme at two middle schools; and additional funds for professional learning for MCPS staff.

“This budget was built collaboratively and cooperatively and reflects the priorities of our community,” Mr. Barclay said. “Meeting the growing and changing needs of our students requires us to identify our challenges and focus our resources to improve in these key areas.”

Managing Growth

Enrollment this school year is nearly 149,000 students, an increase of more than 11,000 students in just five years.  This growth is expected to continue and enrollment is projected to top 159,000 students by FY 2019.  At the same time, more of our students require services and support to be successful.

More than 49,300 MCPS students (33.1 percent) now receive free and reduced-price meals, an increase of more than 12,000 students in five years. Also, nearly 20,000 students receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services.  This budget provides $20.8 million to address enrollment changes, including 127 elementary and secondary positions to serve an additional 2,336 students, 22 positions to serve an additional 900 ESOL students, and 101 positions to increase individualized services for special education students.

Re-energizing Efforts to Narrow the Achievement Gap

MCPS has had success in narrowing the achievement gap in several areas, including Advanced Placement (AP) access and success, graduation rates and early grades reading.  In other areas, the gaps have been persistent and more difficult to narrow.  This budget invests resources in strategic areas to deepen the district’s efforts to narrow the achievement gaps, especially in key areas.

Some of the largest gaps in MCPS are in middle schools, so the Board’s budget request includes the investment of $1.97 million to hire 30 middle school focus teachers who will work with students struggling in mathematics and reading.  The budget also funds 22.8 positions to restore middle school staff development positions to full-time status ($1.5 million). These positions provide vital training and support to middle school teachers. The budget also realigns about $1.1 million to create a Mathematics Implementation Team that will work with schools to improve the capacity of teachers to serve students and invests $665,934 to fund 10 new elementary school teacher positions that will provide accelerated math instruction to students who are ready for advanced work.

Investing in the Future

There are many changes occurring in education—locally and nationally—that will require school districts to invest in their staff. These include the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and literacy; the continued roll-out of Curriculum 2.0; and preparing our students for new state assessments and changes in AP exams.
The Board’s budget request seeks a $3.6 million increase in professional development and resources to help MCPS staff best serve the needs of its students. Other strategic restorations and enhancements include additional consulting teachers to work with new educators and those who are struggling ($314,854). 

The Board’s budget request also funds:

- The addition of five elementary instrumental music teachers
- The restoration of 11 school support positions at small elementary schools, including media specialists, staff development teachers, reading specialists and counselors
- The addition of an assistant school administrator and .5 school secretary position at the district’s three largest elementary schools
- Funds for a districtwide baseline testing program concerning concussions
- Funds to support the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program, a collaborative effort with Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove aimed at increasing postsecondary enrollment and success

Dr. Starr's Recommendation to the Board of Education

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