Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers presented his recommended $2.4 billion Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget to the Board of Education Tuesday (December 8). The budget calls for a 4.5 percent increase in new spending designed to strengthen the system’s foundation, which has been squeezed by eight years of difficult economic times.
“This budget solidifies our foundation and prepares MCPS to make investments in future years to address the growing needs of our students,” said Mr. Bowers, who plans to retire in June 2016 after serving MCPS for 38 years. “I recognize that the economic times are still challenging but we cannot cut our budget any further and, in fact, we have to begin investing again if we are going to give our students the education they deserve.”
The $103 million increase Mr. Bowers’ is recommending will pay for the same level of services for more than 2,500 additional students and includes investments to improve students’ literacy and math skills; build the cultural proficiency of staff; foster stronger partnerships with the community and families to support students; and better organize the district to ensure every student is prepared for college and careers.
In his comments to the Board of Education, Mr. Bowers made it clear that our community must change the way the budget has been funded over for the past eight years. Since 2009, MCPS has been funded at or below the minimum funding level required by law—called Maintenance of Effort. Such funding has resulted in class size increases, reduced essential professional development, and left students with fewer supports and interventions than they need to be successful.
“Maintenance of Effort is a misnomer—it simply means the same dollar amount per student, not the same level of services. It doesn’t cover the increased costs related to inflation, utilities, salaries, or any new programs,” said Mr. Bowers. “In fact, a 2 percent increase in inflation alone requires about a $50 million increase. If you only get the minimum Maintenance of Effort funding, that means you have to cut $50 million from your budget. Ultimately, Maintenance of Effort means a disinvestment in education, and our children cannot afford that.”
In summary, Mr. Bowers’ recommended budget includes—
The budget recommendation also requests the Montgomery County Council to restore $24 million in one-time funding used for the FY 2016 budget and an additional $7.9 million to pay for teacher pension costs that have been shifted from the state to the county. With these two items, the budget increase totals $134.9 million.
Given the fiscal realities and the need to prepare the district to be able to invest in future years when resources may be more available, Mr. Bowers is recommending $2.8 million in targeted, strategic enhancements to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap. All of the enhancements are aligned to the district’s five Strategic Priorities and District Implementation Plan. The enhancements include both new and realigned resources for maximum efficiency and effectiveness and fall into six Strategic Priority Focus Areas—
Focus on Equity and Cultural Proficiency
- Create greater focus on cultural proficiency of staff within every school and office
- Align Study Circles team with the Equity Initiatives Unit
- Increase the number of equity specialists to provide more intensive support to schools
- Provide training and support to schools on restorative practices
Focus on Literacy and Mathematics
- Increase professional development investment to support math and literacy
- Realign math resources to support greater differentiation and acceleration, meeting the needs of Grades 4 and 5 students in their home schools
- Provide greater support to elementary math teachers
- Expand summer school programs through the Children’s Opportunity Fund
- Enhance dual language programs
- Enhance literacy skills of ESOL students
Focus on Career Readiness
- Enhance career pathways options and grow enrollment in programs
- Expand career exposure activities and engage employers to provide students with more work-based learning activities
- Expand SEPA program to serve more students and provide a full-day program
- Implement courses/experiences for 12th graders to ensure college/career readiness
Focus on Partnerships and Engagement
- Organize all student services and family and parent engagement in one office to ensure alignment of work and support for families
- Increase number of parent community coordinators in schools
- Expand the ACES program to additional schools
- Identify partnerships to expand extended learning opportunities, increase participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields, and support additional college readiness programs
- Elevate the work of forging new—and strengthening existing—district partnerships by incorporating work into the Office of the Superintendent
Focus on Accountability and Results
- Enhance assessment strategy to improve student outcomes
- Provide greater focus on accountability and results by reassigning Shared Accountability to the Office of the Superintendent
Focus on Human Capital Management
- Accelerate efforts to improve and diversify workforce
- Expand “grow our own” Student to Educator Pathway (STEP) program with scholarships
The superintendent’s presentation of his recommended budget is the beginning of the Board of Education’s consideration of the operating budget. The Board invites public feedback on the budget recommendation and provides two opportunities for the public to testify. The public hearings will occur on January 7 and 14, 2016, in the Carver Educational Services Center auditorium. The Board also will conduct public work sessions in January to delve into the details of the budget as part of its extensive review of the superintendent’s recommendation.
“We greatly appreciate Mr. Bowers’ thoughtful and responsible budget recommendation for next year,” said Board of Education President Michael Durso. “Now, our process begins as we examine the details and hear from our community. We look forward to a robust dialogue as we all work together to finalize a budget that positions MCPS to deliver a high-quality education for each and every one of our students.”
The Board will adopt the budget on February 9, 2016, and transmit it to the County Executive and County Council for their consideration. The Council adopts its final operating budget, which includes the MCPS budget, in late May.
Mr. Bowers' PowerPoint Presentation
FY 2017 Operating Budget
Mr. Bowers' Operating Budget Speech