Budget Focuses on Middle Schools, Expands Reform Initiative to an Additional 10 Schools
The Board of Education adopted a $2.1 billion Fiscal Year 2009 Operating Budget on February 5 that will continue initiatives outlined in the school system’s strategic plan. They include middle school reform, improvements in special education, expansion of successful programs, and staffing support to schools. The increase of 5.6 percent from the previous fiscal year is the lowest percentage increase in recent years.
The Board approved an amendment to the proposed budget that underscores its focus on middle school reform, increasing the number of schools included in the initiative from nine to 10 in the 2008–2009 school year. There are currently five middle schools in Phase I of middle school reform. The Board decided to reduce the number of additional lunch room aides in the budget from 16 to 4 to offset the cost of adding another middle school.
"This is a lean operating budget and has required us to carefully examine the ways in which we can best continue our successful programs and build the capacity of our employees," said Board of Education President Nancy Navarro. "These are times when it is so important to have a strategic plan that we can turn to in making sure that our priorities for children are met."
In the area of middle school reform, the budget includes about $5.3 million to develop 21 innovative courses in other middle schools and continue the Middle School Magnet Consortium of Argyle, Parkland and Loiederman middle schools—as well as expand middle school reform to an additional 10 schools.
The budget includes about $10.2 million in initiatives to improve student achievement. In addition to the funds allocated for middle school reform, another $1.5 million will support improvements to special education by expanding the hours-based staffing model to three additional middle schools—for a total of 16 middle schools—and increasing the number of elementary teachers for classes with large numbers of special education students.
An additional $3.2 million to improve student achievement includes, among other things, adding 10 elementary assistant principals, six school counselors and six parent-community coordinators, expanding the Poolesville High School magnet to 11th grade, adding International Baccalaureate programs at Kennedy and Seneca Valley high schools, expanding a program to help ESOL high school students with interrupted education, and expanding the Professional Learning Communities Institute.
In addition to funding for initiatives to support student achievement, the 5.6 percent increase ($110 million) over the FY 2008 budget will help fund a 5 percent negotiated salary increase for nearly 22,000 employees. It also will maintain current services for Montgomery County Public Schools’ 138,000 students and cover enrollment changes and inflation-related cost increases.
Because of recent changes in state calculations that deducted an additional $16.8 million from expected state revenue, about 19 percent of the school system’s operating budget is expected to come comes from the state and 5 percent or less from other sources, including the federal government. An approximate $100 million increase will come from Montgomery County. An additional $16 million from the county will fund retiree health benefits.
For the first time, the Montgomery County Council of PTAs joined in developing the operating budget, in full partnership with the employee associations representing teachers (MCEA), support professionals (SEIU Local 500) and administrators (MCAASP). The partners played a critical role in identifying budget priorities, cost savings and initiatives to improve student achievement. Along with feedback from community members, parents, staff and students who participated in two community forums in the fall, the group identified numerous priorities, such as the need to continue middle school reform, add more elementary counselors and add more parent-community coordinators.
Nearly 80 percent of each dollar in the operating budget is allocated for instructional services, with only 2 percent spent on central administrative costs—among the lowest in Maryland.
The MCPS operating budget request will be sent to County Executive Isiah Leggett, who will present his budget to the Montgomery County Council on March 15. The Council will hold a series of public hearings and workshops before taking final action on the county’s operating budget on May 22.