December 15, 2004
Mrs. Patricia O’Neill, President
and Members of the Board of Education
Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive
Rockville, MD 20850
Dear Mrs. O’Neill and Members of the Board of Education:
Over the last five years, our community’s investment in Montgomery County Public Schools has produced great returns. Last year, more students took the SAT than ever before — and they achieved the highest scores in the county and state’s history. Every day, we see our investment paying off as more students achieve academic success. The recent Washington Post Challenge Index also confirms our work by ranking all of our eligible high schools among the top 5 percent in the nation in terms of academic rigor. Quite simply, our strategic plan, Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence, is working, and this year’s budget is aligned to ensure continued progress.
We are demonstrating that when you hire top quality teachers, administrators and support staff and give them the tools they need to do their jobs — good things happen. Over the last five years, we also have dramatically improved our accountability measures. Strong accountability measures give us the data and information we need to know what works and what needs improvement.
We are building on these successes in the proposed Fiscal Year 2006 Operating Budget. The recommended FY 2006 budget totals $1.7 billion — an increase of $109.2 million or 6.8 percent over the FY 2005 Budget. This percentage increase is less than last year’s, and less than the average of the last five years. These new resources will be used to lower class size at all levels, expand full-day kindergarten, give teachers new technology tools to aid instruction, enhance our special education programs, and invest in hiring, training and retaining the best education workforce in Maryland. It is important to note that this budget also reflects the important input the Board of Education received during the community forums held this fall.
The Board’s steady leadership over the last five years has set the stage for the many successes of our students, teachers, administrators, and support personnel. Your continued investment means that MCPS can meet the challenges of a rapidly growing, more diverse school district. We believe the FY 2006 budget is strategically designed for continued success well into the future. As in past years, the vast majority of our budget (89 percent) pays for our people. Administrative costs remain low, at about 2 percent, as we seek to direct more dollars to the classroom. In fact, we have the third lowest central administrative costs in the state and we are first in dollars invested in the classroom. Specifically, the $109.2 million increase is divided as follows:
- $26.5 million in improvement initiatives
- First change in maximum class size guidelines in 20 years — $9.8 million to add 175 teachers
- Acceleration of full-day Kindergarten to 20 more schools — $2.4 million
- Largest investment in special education — $3.3 million
- Greater accountability measures and technology tools for teachers — $3.0 million
- Largest investment in school-based leadership support — $1.2 million to pay for a total of 18 new assistant principals
- Other initiatives to improve student achievement -- $6.8 million
- $14.5 million for school growth and growth in special education and ESOL programs
- $64.7 million for employee salaries and benefits; as well as benefits for retirees
- $3.5 million for transportation, inflation and other costs
Once again, it is critical that we receive our fair share of state revenue — an increase of about $51 million — including $12.6 million for the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) that accounts for higher costs in Montgomery County.
In closing, the FY 2006 budget will ensure that our resources are directed in the most efficient way so that Montgomery County Public Schools continues the steady progress we have made over the last five years. This budget will enable us to meet the challenges ahead with a well-trained, highly qualified, and extremely dedicated workforce equipped with the proper technology to help all of our children achieve academic success.
Respectfully, Jerry D. Weast, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools