Nancy J. King, President
Board of Education
April 5, 2001
I am testifying on behalf of the Board of Education on the requested Fiscal Year 2002 Operating Budget for the Montgomery County Public Schools. The decisions on this year's operating budget will be a critical test of the ability of our community to continue a long-term commitment to educational excellence.
The Board of Education's Operating Budget Request for FY 2002 constitutes the second year of a four-year plan to raise the bar and close the achievement gap for all students in the Montgomery County Public Schools. The members of the County Council are thoroughly familiar with our goals and with the specific initiatives designed to improve student performance. All of you have been steadfast supporters of our plan. Last year, with the support of the county executive, you funded more than 99 percent of the Board's request. We know that this year will be a difficult one, and we are confident that you will do the very utmost that you can, given fiscal constraints, for all the children of our county.
The Board of Education was pleased that County Executive Duncan recommended an operating budget for MCPS that exceeds the state's maintenance of effort requirement and the preliminary spending affordability guideline by $40.1 million. This recommendation, however, is $26.4 million less than the Board of Education has requested. The members of the Board and MCPS staff stand ready, as always, to work closely with the Education Committee and with the members of the Council to narrow this gap.
As this budget review proceeds, we urge you to pay special attention to several important factors. The key to excellence in education remains a high quality workforce. This budget includes $4.3 million to continue the Workforce Excellence initiatives begun last year. These programs include adding 20 consulting teachers, expanding the staff development teacher program, and allowing more teachers to receive Skillful Teacher training. The continuation of this program is crucial to the expansion of the new teacher evaluation system to more than 90 new schools next year.
We urge you to support the collective bargaining contracts negotiated by the Board of Education. The recently negotiated contract with the Montgomery County Education Association provides the minimum of four percent in local funding required by the Governor's Teacher Salary Challenge to qualify for more than $7 million in additional state aid for teacher salaries. Our other two bargaining units are entering the second year of three-year agreements, funding for which was approved by the Council last year. Together these agreements make it possible, at a time of growing teacher shortages, to recruit and retain the very best.
Our budget also devotes attention to the impact of the growing diversity in Montgomery County, as highlighted recently by the release of the 2000 census figures. We have added more than $4.5 million to the budget to address the growth of our ESOL enrollment, now nearly half of all ESOL students in Maryland.
We have requested $4.5 million in initiatives directed at special education. We must provide the resources to lower class size and provide other needed supports to special education students to improve the achievement levels of these students. In order to remove the barriers of emotional and behavioral difficulties that may hinder the achievement of any student in our schools, I urge you to fund the $2.1 million of initiatives for counselors, psychologists, and pupil personnel workers. This part of our ongoing plan is vital and has wide community support, as evidenced by the public hearings that we conducted in January.
In addition to our request, I want you to know of our support for your efforts in the area of early childhood. As you are aware, we are requesting continued expansion of full-day kindergarten and class size reduction in the primary grades. However, recent research indicates that many children, especially those from low-income families and with limited English proficiency, are arriving at school without the literacy skills that they need to learn rapidly. If children do not have the necessary literacy skills when they arrive at school, their chances of success diminish rapidly and the cost of remedial efforts rises accordingly. Therefore, we urgently request you to support pre-school initiatives as proposed by the county executive. Helping young families and pre-school children is the best investment that this county can make for the future.
Thank you again for allowing me to testify tonight and thank you for all the support that you have consistently given to the children of Montgomery County. I welcome your questions.