The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday (June 14) unanimously approved a final $2.457 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The budget is a $139 million (6.0 percent) increase over FY 2016 and provides $37.9 million of targeted funding that will allow Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to reduce class sizes in many classrooms across the district and accelerate our efforts to close the achievement gap. The approved budget marks the first time since 2009 Montgomery County Public Schools has been funded above the minimum level required by state law, called Maintenance of Effort (MOE).
[Read the June 14, 2016 memo from Interim Superintendent Bowers on the FY 2017 Operating Budget]
“This budget represents an important reinvestment in our students and our schools,” stated Michael Durso, president of the Board of Education. “The resources in this budget not only help us keep pace with enrollment, but also allow us to take bold, meaningful steps toward closing the achievement gap. In addition, this budget allows us to give our well-deserving employees a salary increase next year. I am grateful to the county executive, County Council President Nancy Floreen and the County Council, and our community for their unwavering support for public education.”
Among the critical investments this budget funds are—
- Lowering class sizes with additional teachers to continue the district’s commitment that all students have opportunities to succeed and will be successful
- Increasing paraeducator support to students in classrooms in targeted areas, including mathematics and literacy
- Allocating additional Focus teachers to impacted schools to provide targeted support, especially in content areas such as literacy and mathematics in order to address achievement gaps
- Enhancing our professional development investments to improve math and literacy instruction in elementary schools
- Increasing the number of elementary school counselors, parent community coordinators, psychologists, and pupil personnel workers to provide support for the district’s most vulnerable students and their families
- Increasing minority achievement programs, including the Student to Educator Pathway (STEP) program, after-school extracurricular activities, mentoring programs, and university partnerships
- Expanding the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program and the Minority Scholars program to additional schools
Reducing Class Size
The additional classroom teacher positions included in the FY 2017 Operating Budget will enable MCPS to change the elementary class size guidelines that are used to allocate staff to schools. In our Focus schools—those with the highest levels of poverty—class size guidelines are reduced more for some grade levels than in non-Focus schools; however, the guidelines are being changed for non-Focus schools as well. This budget reflects the Board’s commitment to continuing to invest more resources in schools with greater student needs. Changing the guidelines does not mean that every elementary class will be smaller by one or two students in the 2016–2017 school year. Classes that already are at or below the new guidelines will not see the number of students in the classroom change; however, schools that have several classrooms that exceed the new guidelines will receive additional teachers to create smaller classes.
For secondary schools, this budget allows for reduced class size guidelines for mathematics, science, social studies, reading, and foreign language classes. It is important to remember that class size guidelines are not the same as average class sizes. Principals use their teacher positions to offer a wide range of course offerings to students while keeping the size of core content classes manageable. The additional classroom teachers for secondary schools allow us to minimize the number of classes above the class size guidelines, reduce the average class sizes in all our schools, and reduce class sizes to address our priority of closing the achievement gap.
[View video on class size guidelines]
“The foundation of public education in Montgomery County will be stronger because of the resources in this budget,” said Larry Bowers, MCPS Interim Superintendent of Schools. “The funding will enable us to continue our commitment to education by lowering class sizes; implementing strategic, targeted programs to close the achievement gap; and maintaining a well-trained, highly effective workforce.”