The Montgomery County Council has approved 99.5 percent of the Board of Education's requested $1.7 billion Fiscal Year 2006 operating budget. The budget includes new investments to reduce class size, expand full-day kindergarten, enhance special education, and provide teachers with more technology tools to aid instruction.
The budget for the school system constitutes 48 percent of the entire county budget, as it did in the previous fiscal year.
"This budget reflects an extraordinary cooperative effort on the part of the community, the county government, and the school system," said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. "Funding of this budget will enable MCPS to continue on the path that has produced record-setting student performance and substantial reduction of the achievement gap among races, English language learners, and children in poverty."
Recent academic achievements include record numbers of students reading in kindergarten, five years of gains by Grade 2 students on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, the highest SAT scores in the history of Montgomery County and Maryland with the greatest number of seniors ever to take the test, and among the best results in the nation on Advanced Placement exams.
The approved budget retains virtually all of the funding for new initiatives, cutting approximately $2.1 million in proposed technology improvements.
As in past years, the vast majority of the budget (89 percent) pays for Montgomery County Public Schools personnel. Administrative costs remain low, at 2 percent, as more dollars are directed to the classroom.
"The input we received from the community forums on the budget held last fall was extremely important in ensuring that the operating budget reflected community priorities and aligned with the school system's strategic plan," said Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill. "Parents and students will see visible reductions in class size, additional administrative resources in elementary schools, and additional building service support, among other improvements."
The County Council also added funding of $100,000 for a new Career and Technology Apprenticeship Program that will provide construction trades apprenticeships for students. This Council initiative will be implemented in cooperation with the Gudelsky Institute at Montgomery College.
Highlights of the approved operating budget include:
· School growth and growth in special education and ESOL programs--$10.6 million.
· Employee salaries and benefits, and benefits for retirees--$64.7 million.
· Transportation, inflation, and other costs--$3.5 million.
The budget includes a total of $23.9 in new or expanded initiatives to improve student achievement. Some of the major initiatives include:
· First change in maximum class size guidelines in 20 years--$9.5 million to add 170 teachers.
· Acceleration of full-day kindergarten to 20 more schools, for a total of 93 schools--$2.4 million.
· New investment in special education--$3.1 million.
· Greater accountability measures and technology tools for teachers--$2.5 million.
· Largest investment in school-based leadership support--$1.2 million to pay for a total of 18 new assistant principals.
· Expansion of gifted and talented and IB programs--$345,000.