Final Budget Includes Funding for Middle School Reform, Special Education Improvements, Salary Increases for Employees, and Several Other Initiatives
The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a $1.985 billion Fiscal Year 2008 operating budget for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Thursday, enabling the school system to continue its many reform efforts that have produced unprecedented academic achievement for MCPS students.
The County Council approved 99.7 percent of the Board of Education’s budget request, providing an increase of $133 million (7.2 percent) over the FY 2007 budget. The FY 2008 budget funds a new salary agreement with the three employee associations. It also includes numerous targeted investments to continue efforts to reform and improve middle schools, strengthen special education, improve high schools, add more counselors and elementary assistant principals, expand the Poolesville High School whole-school magnet program, and increase foreign language translation services.
“In a very difficult budget year, we appreciate the Council’s commitment to education with their support of the MCPS budget,” said Nancy Navarro, Board of Education president. “Our budget is focused on one thing—giving our staff the resources they need to increase student success and close the achievement gap. We’ve made great progress, but we must continue to invest our resources wisely if we are going to achieve success for every child.”
“The Board of Education’s reform efforts and the investment of our community’s resources together have produced exceptional increases in student achievement,” said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “We have proven each year that our investments produce results.”
Previous investments in student success have produced record results:
- Once again, MCPS has five high schools ranked in the Top 100 in America by Newsweek magazine, with four in the top 70 and all high schools included in the top 3 percent in the nation.
- The Class of 2006 set numerous historic highs in participation and performance in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The Class of 2006 broke the previous AP record set by the Class of 2005, with 56 percent of the class taking at least one AP exam and 45 percent scoring well enough to earn college credit.
- AP performance of the Class of 2006 was three times higher than the national average for 2006 graduates and twice as high as the average for graduating seniors in Maryland.
- Eighty-eight percent of kindergartners are reading simple text, and there is no achievement gap between White students and their African American and Hispanic peers.
- Forty-six percent of fifth graders are taking sixth grade math, compared with 2 percent six years ago.
The County Council reduced the overall MCPS budget request by $6.3 million. The Board of Education will decide at its June 12 meeting where to make the cuts in the FY 2008 budget to match this funding level, but has stated that the cuts can be made without negatively impacting classroom instruction.
“The Council’s Education Committee thoroughly examined every aspect of our budget to make sure that MCPS is spending the taxpayer’s money as wisely as possible,” said Weast. “We have streamlined our budget over the last seven years and devote 80 cents of every dollar to our instructional programs. At only 2 percent, our administrative costs are among the lowest of any school district in the state.”
The FY 2008 budget is the result of a close collaborative process between MCPS, its employee associations and its parents. Throughout the process, MCPS sought and received a great deal of feedback, which helped shape the initiatives included in the budget.
MCPS and its employee associations have reached a three-year agreement on salary increases. Employees will receive a salary increase of 4.8 percent in FY 2008, 5 percent in FY 2009, and 5.3 percent in FY 2010. The cost of the FY 2008 wage increase totals $69.9 million.
“The key to our success has been the quality and dedication of our staff,” said Board President Navarro. “This budget demonstrates that we recognize and value the hard work of our employees.”
The FY 2008 budget includes a $2.5 million investment in middle school reform—the first installment of a three-year, $10 million plan. Five schools will be included in the first phase of middle school reform, which focuses on enhancing staff skills, providing an accelerated curriculum with an emphasis on math and reading skills, and improving the leadership structure of middle school. The budget also includes $1.2 million for 16.5 new middle school counselors.
In special education, the budget includes $1.8 million to fund the implementation of a new staffing model that apportions staff to schools based on the intensity of services students receive. This model, called hours-based staffing, will expand from two to twelve middle schools this year and is expected to increase student performance.
Additional investments will be targeted to:
- Increase supports in high schools to support High School Assessment proficiency.
- Expand online courses for high school students.
- Expand the Poolesville High School magnet program.
- Add 15 elementary assistant principals.
- Add 14 elementary instructional data assistants.
- Add staff for elementary art, music, and PE classes.
- Develop a pilot program to help ESOL high school students who had an interrupted education.
- Increase translation services to families with limited English skills.
- Add staff for growth in ESOL enrollment.
- Add junior varsity lacrosse and increase middle school extracurricular activities.
- Provide training and tools for support professionals.
- Pay rental costs associated with graduation venues.
- Begin a targeted initiative aimed at improving African American student achievement in the John F. Kennedy High School Cluster.
- Provide more team leaders in elementary school.
The FY 2008 budget also includes a $16.1 million contribution to a retiree health trust fund mandated by new accounting rules. Excluding this required contribution, the entire budget increase totals only 6.3 percent.
The Board of Education will decide on its budget reductions and approve the final budget at the June 12 Board of Education meeting.