Superintendent Recommends $2.28B Operating Budget

December 12, 2013
FY 2015 Budget Recommendation seeks 2.5% increase;
Allows district to manage growth, narrow gaps, invest in the future

NOTE TO MEDIA: Dr. Starr will hold a media availability at 2:15 p.m. today (Dec. 12) at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, in Rockville

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is recommending a $2.28 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 that will allow the district to manage its continued enrollment growth, while also making strategic investments to narrow gaps and prepare for the future.

Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation, released on Thursday (Dec. 12, 2013), represents a $56.4 million increase—about 2.5 percent—over the current budget (FY 2014) and is about 1 percent over the minimum county funding floor. The increase in Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation includes $21.9 million for enrollment growth and $26 million for continuing salaries, employee benefits, and keeping up with inflation.

It also includes $11.8 million in enhancements in strategic areas, including investing in technology, reducing some high school class sizes, improving teaching and learning for English Language Learners in middle schools, expanding community partnerships, and making improvements to student support services and alternative education. The increases are offset by $3.3 million in efficiencies and budget reductions, mostly in central services.

“This budget recommendation will allow us to serve a growing number of students and make additional investments in key areas that will help prepare our students to thrive in their future,” Dr. Starr said. “I am grateful for the collaboration with our employees and parents that led to the development of a responsible budget that balances our fiscal responsibilities with the needs of our students and staff.”

Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation was built in collaboration with the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and the three MCPS employee associations—the Montgomery County Education Association; the Service Employees International Union, Local 500; and the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals.

MCPS received internal and external input on the budget in a variety of ways, including focus groups and budget teams that included more than 200 employees, students, parents, and other community members. The recommended budget also reflects the Board of Education’s budget interests, which were discussed at Board meetings in July and September, and its core values. (
Learn more about the Board of Education’s budget interests.)

Dr. Starr cautioned that this recommendation should be considered preliminary. The amount of state funding MCPS will receive has not been determined. Dr. Starr has estimated a $14 million increase in state revenue based on past trends in funding, but the actual amount won’t be known until Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley releases his budget in January. Also, negotiations on new contracts with the three MCPS employee associations are progressing, but have not been completed. Dr. Starr has not included any money in his recommendation for compensation increases in FY 2015. Once more information is available, Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation will be amended.

Dr. Starr’s budget will now be reviewed by the Montgomery County Board of Education, which will hold public hearings on the budget Thursday, Jan. 9, and Thursday, Jan. 16. The Board also will hold two budget work sessions on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 23, before approving a final operating budget request, currently scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11. For more information on the public hearings and the budget process, visit
the MCPS Operating Budget website.

Once the Board approves a budget request, it will be sent to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council for consideration. The County Council will approve a final FY 2015 Operating Budget for MCPS in May.

MCPS enjoys strong support from the community, but over the past five years the district’s budget has been funded at or below the minimum required county funding level. In that time, the county’s per-pupil investment in MCPS has dropped by approximately $1,500.

“I urge the Board of Education to carefully consider my recommendation and work with our county leaders to pass a budget that will provide our students today, and in the future, with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful,” Dr. Starr said. 

Managing Growth

In FY 2014, Dr. Starr began a multiyear budgeting strategy focused around three key areas: managing the district’s continued growth; re-energizing efforts to narrow achievement gaps; and preparing staff and students for the future.

About 85 percent of Dr. Starr’s recommended budget increase is dedicated to managing growth and continuing costs. Enrollment this school year is 151,289 students, an increase of more than 2,500 students from last school year and nearly 14,000 students over the past six years. Enrollment is expected to increase by 11,000 students over the next six years.

As enrollment grows, a greater number of our students require specific services and support to ensure success. More than 52,500 students (35 percent of total enrollment) now receive free and reduced-price meals, an indicator of poverty. That’s an increase of more than 14,500 students since 2008. Nearly 20,000 students (13.2 percent of enrollment) receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services. This number has doubled since 2000.

Dr. Starr’s recommendation includes $21.9 million to address enrollment changes, including 178 elementary and secondary teachers to serve an additional 2,721 students; 8 positions to serve additional ESOL students; and 75 positions to increase individualized services for special education students. This budget also includes $6.8 million for continuing salary costs and $17.3 million to cover increased costs for providing benefits for current and retired employees. The money for benefits includes $3.3 million for state teacher pension costs.

Building Our Future

MCPS has a history of allocating resources where they are needed most. For instance, for more than a decade, MCPS has provided, on average, $1.9 million in additional money per school to the district’s 67 elementary schools most impacted by poverty.

These and other strategies have allowed MCPS to have success in narrowing the achievement gap in many areas, including Advanced Placement access and success, early grades literacy, and graduation rates. In other areas, the gaps have been more persistent and Dr. Starr said the district will need to try new strategies to continue its progress. At the same time, MCPS must prepare its students and staff for the future, including the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); new, more rigorous state and national assessments; and a workplace that will require students to have a very different set of skills and knowledge.

The MCPS Strategic Planning Framework—
Building Our Future Together: Students, Staff, and Community—identifies the three competencies students will need so they can thrive in their future: academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social emotional learning. Along with a commitment to organizational effectiveness, Dr. Starr’s multiyear budgeting strategy invests money in key areas to deepen the district’s efforts to narrow gaps and prepare students for the future.

In FY 2014—the first year of the multiyear budgeting strategy—investments included placing additional teachers in middle schools to address achievement gaps; adding staff to improve mathematics teaching and learning; and enhancing professional development around the CCSS.  MCPS also began two programs aimed at providing customized support to schools and improving timely interventions to students who are struggling. The Innovation and Interventions Schools Networks did not have a budgetary impact in FY 2014, but required the realignment of funds and central office services.

“By adopting a multiyear budgeting strategy, we can support new solutions to our long-standing challenge of the achievement gap while helping prepare our staff and students for the future,” Dr. Starr said. “My FY 2015 operating budget recommendation builds on the work we started this year and our district’s history of putting resources where they are needed.”

Strategic Enhancements and Restorations

Districtwide Investments: Dr. Starr is recommending additional funding aimed at fostering innovation and improved instruction and support across all grade levels, including—

· $800,000 to begin an effort that will encourage exemplary teachers to move to or stay in high-needs schools. These funds will provide teacher salary supplements for up to 250 teachers, who will provide instruction and leadership. The funding also includes grants that school can use to improve teaching and learning;
· $3 million for the purchase of technology, mainly tablets, to enhance instruction and properly deliver new state assessments;
· $947,109 to begin a multiyear effort to improve the student support model. These funds will add 5.5 elementary school counselors, 4 school psychologists, and 3 pupil personnel workers, with more positions to be added in future years to lower caseloads; and
· $300,000 to provide additional support and coaching to schools in the Innovation and Interventions Schools Networks.

Middle Schools: Some of the district's largest gaps are in middle schools and Dr. Starr's recommendation continues to invest in improving this key area, including—

· $1.45 million that will fund positions in 21 middle schools to provide focused support to ESOL students; and
· $704,167 that will provide middle school teacher leaders more opportunities to engage and support educators and school staff.

High Schools: To support the improvement and redesign of MCPS high schools, Dr. Starr's budget recommends several additional investments, including—

· $977,145 for 15 high school focus teachers that, in combination with 23.5 existing positions, will reduce English and mathematics class sizes in the district's most impacted schools;
· $996,918 for additional positions that will allow high school resource and staff development teachers to increase opportunities for planning, coaching, and professional learning;
· $136,534, combined with $300,000 in realigned funds, to redesign Alternative Programs. These funds help provide more individualized instruction and support to students who have not been successful in traditional school settings; and
· $49,500 to further project-based learning at Wheaton High School, which will serve as a model for the district on how to engage students in instruction that builds academic excellence and creative problem-solving skills.

Elementary Schools: In addition to providing additional resources to the 67 elementary schools most impacted by poverty, Dr. Starr's budget recommendation includes—

· $251,832 to create additional team leader positions in some elementary schools that serve higher special education and ESOL populations, as well as the arts;
· $456,000 for teachers to support the expansion of the compacted mathematics curriculum to Grade 5; and
· $541,677 to restore various positions that have been reduced in smaller elementary schools over the past five years, including staff development teachers, reading specialists, media specialists; and counselors.

Building Community Partnerships and Engagement: To support the mission of the Building Our Future Together Framework, Dr. Starr's budget invests in the expansion of community partnerships that support student success, including—

· $118,157 to expand the Kennedy Cluster Project, a multiagency partnership that provides students and families with access to health care, housing, financial assistance, and other social services. These funds would extend the program into the Watkins Mill cluster;
· $148,480 to expand transportation for students in Excel Beyond the Bell, a collaborative effort that provides high-quality after-school programs in middle schools that are impacted by poverty; and
· $532,230 to add positions to the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships as part of a multiyear effort to develop business and community connections and provide support to parents in our schools. 

MCPS Operating Budget website

Two-page Summary of FY 2015 Operating Budget Recommendation

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