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Statement of Board of Education President Michael A. Durso on Board's Amendments to Superintendent's Recommended Operating Budget to Address the Achievement Gap

February 8, 2016

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2017 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Operating Budget amounts to $2.45 billion which includes funding for continued enrollment growth, increases in the cost of goods and services, negotiated salary increases for our staff, the replacement of one-time funding sources for retirees’ health care costs, and the continued shift of state pension costs to MCPS.  Together, these factors result in an operating budget increase of $134.9 million.  State funding provides an additional $25.4 million, leaving $109.5 million of funding needed from the Montgomery County Council, which is $88.5 million more than the minimum funding required by Maintenance of Effort. The budget also assumes that MCPS will generate enough savings in FY 2016 to cover the $33.1 million of fund balance that was used by the County Council to fund this year’s operating budget.  

In reviewing the superintendent’s budget recommendation, the Board appreciated the enhancements as well as the realignments and reorganization that have been recommended to address the Board’s operating budget interests.  The budget outlines a comprehensive strategic approach to ensure that all MCPS students will be college and career ready when they graduate from MCPS.  However, in listening to the public testimony as well other communications that the Board has received during the past month, the Board believes that it is necessary to ask the county executive and the County Council for additional funding beyond the interim superintendent’s recommendation.  Board members fully support the recommendation, but believe more resources are needed to close the achievement gap for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students. As Mr. Bowers stated in his presentation of the operating budget on December 8, 2015, we cannot continue to fund the budget at the levels that we have over the past seven years and expect the school system and our schools to close the achievement gaps. 

We cannot continue to fund the budget at the minimal funding level of Maintenance of Effort and continue to use one time sources to fund the budget, including hiring freezes and expenditure restrictions to build the fund balance to fund next year’s budget.  We simply have to find a way to invest more in public education in Montgomery County.  We cannot cut our way out of this any longer.   It is not possible to address revenue shortfalls through the elimination of more positions.  Since 2009, enrollment has increased by more than 17,000 students; however, budget funding has not kept pace with this growth, which has resulted in the elimination of more than 1,800 positions.  During this period, enrollment has grown by 12.4 percent but staffing has increased by only 3.3 percent.  Any further disinvestment in education is a disinvestment in the future of our children and our county. 

Therefore, the Board is proposing for consideration by the county executive and the County Council additional budget requests that should be considered only after the Superintendent’s FY 2017 Operating Budget is fully funded.  This list of resources identified by Board members is presented in three tiers of approximately $15 million each.  If the County Council is able to fund more than the superintendent’s recommended amount, then the first tier should be considered for funding.  If the Council can fund more than this, than the second tier should be considered for funding.  If the Council is unable to fund beyond the superintendent’s recommended amount, then these tiers should be the basis for a multi-year budget plan that needs to be funded beginning in FY 2018.

The Board wants to make it clear that the resources identified in these three tiers do not represent everything that the Board believes is required to address the needs of all of our students and close the achievement gap for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students.  However, these additional investments will better position the district to support student success, close the achievement gap, and prepare all students to be college and career ready.  The Board is not recommending the restoration of all 1,800 positions that have been eliminated since 2009.  However, our top priority is to reduce class sizes to the 2009 levels which will require an additional 383.7 teachers, all of which are included in these three tiers. In addition, the Board and the superintendent had agreed in prior years to support a multi-year strategic enhancement plan that has not been fully funded.  Some, but not all, of the items in this multi-year plan have been included in these three tiers.  Other items will need to be considered in the development of the FY 2018 Operating Budget and beyond.

The first tier that is recommended by the Board and is our top priority is mostly classroom teachers to reduce class sizes.  If additional funding is identified by the County Council beyond the superintendent’s recommended budget level, we request the following additions to the FY 2017 MCPS Operating Budget:

Tier I – 228.8 FTEs and $15.7 Million

  • Partially restore class sizes to previous levels in elementary, middle, and high school
  • Increase the number of focus teachers to address closing the achievement gap in literacy
    and mathematics for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students
  • Increase the number of elementary counselors to reduce ratios in schools most highly impacted by poverty
  • Provide additional funding for graduation venues

Tier II – 145.4 FTEs and $15.8 million

  • Partially restore class sizes to previous levels in middle and high schools
  • Increase the number of elementary schools with Special Education Home School Model staffing
  • Increase the number of Pre-Kindergarten classes
  • Expand the middle school leadership model to additional schools
  • Expand minority achievement programming in high schools to address the achievement and opportunity gaps including during-the-day, after-school, and extra-curricular programs for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students
  • Increase counselors, psychologists, parent community coordinators, and pupil personnel workers (PPWs) to support the most highly impacted schools
  • Increase paraeducators to provide support in elementary mathematics to address
    the achievement and opportunity gaps in mathematics
  • Increase professional development focused on closing the achievement gap in literacy and mathematics for African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students, including strategies to reengage disconnected youth
  • Increase funding for the continued roll out of Chromebooks
  • Increase maintenance support for indoor air quality
  • Increase instrumental music teachers in elementary schools

Tier III – 171.4 FTEs and $14.1 million

  • Restore class sizes to FY2009  levels in elementary, middle, and high school
  • Increase counselors, psychologists, parent community coordinators, and PPWs to support schools most highly impacted by poverty
  • Expand the middle school leadership model to additional schools
  • Increase the number of elementary schools with Special Education Home School Model staffing
  • Fund enhanced Read 180 programming for students who need additional literacy support in middle and high schools
  • Increase textbook allocations to schools
  • Increase instrumental music teachers in elementary schools
  • Enhance maintenance support to schools
  • Increase the number of elementary school assistant principals

 

Summary

 

Additional FTEs

Additional Amount

Total FTEs Above Budget

Total Amount Above Budget

Tier I

228.8

 $  15,709,790

228.8

$  15,709,790

Tier II

145.4

 $  15,832,981

374.2

$  31,542,771

Tier III

171.4

 $  14,113,468

545.6

$  45,656,239

 

The Board believes that our community strongly supports education funding in order to ensure that every student has every opportunity to be successful. The Board is committed to working with the county executive and the County Council to commit resources to MCPS as we did before the economic downturn.  The difficult budget years have meant that MCPS has had to scale back programs and interventions to support our students and families.  We cannot continue to scale back our commitment to students.  It is time to reinvest in education so that we can ensure that the playing field is leveled for students who are impacted by the opportunity gap.  We believe the superintendent’s budget commits to that work and establishes a strong foundation for the district. The Board believes the additional funds that we have requested will build on that foundation. 

The Board recognizes the fiscal constraints that led to decreased funding in prior years
and has done its part to improve efficiency and maximize the use of every tax dollar provided to MCPS.However, as the superintendent communicated in his budget presentation, we simply cannot cut any further.The county cannot continue to disinvest in public education.We must find ways to exceed the minimum Maintenance of Effort funding level as well as eliminate one-time funding sources for the MCPS operating budget. We must fund the FY 2017 MCPS Operating Budget at the level recommended by the interim superintendent and then consider funding the additional resources identified by the Board.

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