Response by the Board of Education President and Superintendent to the County Executive's FY- 2002 Budget

March 15, 2001
Board of Education President Nancy J. King and Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, released the following prepared statements today [Thursday, March 15] in response to the Fiscal Year 2002 operating budget recommendations by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

The County Executive recommended funding all but $26.4 million of the Board of Education's request, setting in motion the possibility of cuts and other changes in the planned budget program for next year, unless additional funding is provided by the County Council and the State.

Mrs. Nancy J. King, President of the Board of Education:

"The County Executive's budget is $26.4 million less than the request by the Board of Education and potentially delays the major instructional initiatives planned for next year," Mrs. King said.

"We have taken great pains to respond to the economic necessities of our county by reducing costs, reorganizing programs, streamlining services, and deferring expenditures wherever possible, but the fact of the matter remains that the needs of our students have increased and the expectations are greater now than ever before," Mrs. King said.

"We already know that the challenges facing our students beginning even in kindergarten are difficult, and for that reason alone we need to move forward as quickly as possible to lower class size, expand full-day kindergarten, and make the changes necessary to address the significant issues affecting student achievement," Mrs. King said.

"We are very concerned about the lack of sufficient funding for the second year of the school system's four-year plan, which was widely supported in the budget last year," Mrs. King said. "In the meantime, we will work with the County Council and the State to find additional funding and, at the same time, identify additional savings."

Statement by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools:

"The initiatives this year are beginning to make a difference, but we need the continued full support of everyone if we are to build on the progress already under way," Dr. Weast said.

"I know the challenges ahead of us are difficult, as economic conditions change and funding for the county becomes tighter, but there is an urgency for us to stay focused on the improvement of our schools an urgency underscored by the report last week about the absence of significant literacy skills among a growing number of students entering kindergarten," Dr. Weast said.

"Actually, we already have deferred needed improvements and stretched the implementation plans over several years because of the limited funding, and this year we are continuing a phasing-in of countywide class-size reductions, full-day kindergarten, professional staff development, and improved reading, writing, and math instruction throughout the county," Dr. Weast said.

"At the same time, we know that in order to recruit and maintain the best possible workforce in our schools we need to maintain the commitments to teachers, principals, and other employees for salaries and benefits," Dr. Weast said. "Moreover, greater efforts are necessary in special education, English as a second language, and alternative programs, and for middle school instruction, technology, security, and building maintenance."

Facts about the MCPS budget:

* Board of Education budget request: $1.33 billion

* Requested increase over current year: $111.8 million (9 percent)

* Projected enrollment increase (budget to budget): 1,556 students

* Cost of second year of planned instructional improvements: $27.7 million

* Percent of budget for direct instructional costs and non-administrative support: 97.6 percent

* Percent of budget for systemwide administration: 2.4 percent (lowest ever)

* Reductions of $5.9 million (in addition to $234 million in cumulative cuts since 1991, including $9 million for the current year)

Summary of Planned Initiatives

Class Size Reductions - $10.8 Million

Class-size reduction, including full-day kindergarten at 11 more schools for a total of 28 schools ($2.0 m), K-2 reduction to 17:1 at 19 additional schools for a total of 38 schools ($2.9 m), secondary school class-size reduction ($2.8 m), elementary school class size reduction ($1.1 m), and special education class size reduction for students with learning and academic disabilities ($1.9 m).

Workforce Excellence - $4.3 Million

Expansion of staff development capacity, including "Skillful Teacher" training ($0.9 m), 20 consulting teachers ($1.3 m), staff development substitute teachers ($1.6 m), and other programs ($0.5 m).

Literacy - $4.6 Million

Continued expansion of reading and math literacy programs, including reading and teachers and elementary school mathematics ($0.7 m), counselors ($1.2 m), ESOL support ($0.4 m), alternative programs ($0.4 m), athletic program support ($0.2 m), and other instructional enhancement ($1.7 m).

Special Education - $2.5 Million

Programs for special education, including elementary school resource room and cluster model support ($0.5 m), psychologists ($0.4 m), and special education instructional assistants ($1.6 m), in addition to class size reduction.

Family and Community Partnerships - $0.4 Million

Parent outreach and community partnership initiatives ($0.4 m).

Organizational Excellence - $4.7 Million

Programs to improve technology ($2.1 m), school security ($0.3 m), school learning environment ($1.6 m), and other school support ($0.7 m).

Shared Accountability - $0.4 Million

Accountability and program evaluation ($0.4 m)

Additional Summary Information

The Board's operating budget request is $1,333,836,665, an increase of $111.8 million or 9.2 percent (Citizens Budget, Page 8). The increase of the tax-supported budget (excluding grants and enterprise funds) is $105.2 million or 9.5 percent. The percentage increase in the budget is less than the increase in FY 2001.

The major factors responsible for the increase are:

1. Enrollment growth ($15.2 million)

2. Salary and employee benefits increases ($59.8 million)

3. Inflationary and miscellaneous increases ($9.1 million)

4. Improvement initiatives, including class size reduction, full-day kindergarten, staff development, improvements in reading/writing/and mathematics, special education, and community partnerships ($27.7 million)

5. These increases are partially offset with savings and efficiencies that do not affect classroom instruction ($5.9 million)

* Improvements in the quality of our schools cost $27.7 million. These are based on Trend Benders, significant initiatives that can make major improvements in student achievement to raise the bar for all students and close the achievement gap among racial and ethnic groups.

* Much of the budget increase is due to enrollment growth of 1,556 students next year

* Another factor increasing costs is our growing diversity in economic and social terms. Nearly 22 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. More than 10,000 are ESOL students. This means more students with a variety of special needs.

* Compensation increases total $42.8 million for the negotiated agreement with administrators (MCAASP), supporting services employees (MCCSSE), and teachers (MCEA). Other changes in compensation costs include continuing salary increases and related benefits for current employees ($7.8 million), and the cost of employee benefits for active and retired employees ($10.8 million).

* MCPS has made more than $240 million in annual savings and cuts since FY 1990, much of which has come from employee salaries and benefits. In addition, we have one of the lowest percentages of administrative costs of any Maryland school district. Since FY 1991, we have reduced administrative costs more than any other county. The FY 2002 budget includes $5.9 million in additional savings, none of which directly affect the instructional program.

* Despite rapid enrollment growth, the MCPS share of the total county budget has not changed in the last ten years

Academic Trends

* Highest graduation rate (90 percent) among large school systems in the United States.

* Highest composite score (55.4%) on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) since 1993, the fourth highest in the state (up from fifth last year) and the highest among Maryland's large school systems.

* Students score well above national average in reading, language, and math in Grades 2, 4 and 6 on first administration of Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS). All racial groups at or above the national average.

* Highest percentage achieving proficiency on Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRTs) in Grades 3-8 in math (61%) since 1997 and reading (71%) since 1994. Gains made among every racial and ethnic group, except for Hispanic elementary students in reading.

* Highest percentage of Grade 8 students passing Algebra 1 or higher math course (41%) since 1995. Highest rate for each racial and ethnic group.

* Highest percentage of Grade 9 students passing Algebra 1 or higher math course (79%) since 1990. Highest rate for each racial and ethnic group.

* Highest percentage of students enrolled in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses (56%) since 1990. Highest percentage for each racial and ethnic group.

* Highest number of students taking at least one AP test (4,626), an increase of 32 percent since 1999, and the largest number of total AP tests ever taken (8,542), an increase of 40 percent while the average score remained nearly the same (3.58).

* Highest score on SAT in math for MCPS in 27 years (557). Highest participation rate among students in MCPS (80%) since 1973. Highest combined SAT score in Maryland (1093).

* Highest percentage of graduating seniors in the state (39.9%) successfully completing four or more of the state's indicators of a rigorous education in preparation for college.

* Lowest dropout rate (1.71%) since 1993.

Detailed information about the budget is available at the link below:

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