Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan today [Tuesday, April 23] announced his support of the Board of Education’s plans approved last night to usher in $13.5 million in programs and services in the most urban areas of Montgomery County as the result of new state and federal funding.
The key elements of the new programs are a significant expansion of full-day kindergarten and class size reductions in elementary schools, along with improvements in English language instruction, special education, and secondary school reading and mathematics programs. Nearly $1 million in funding also was included to initiate the long-sought downcounty consortium in the Blair, Einstein, Kennedy and Wheaton clusters.
At a press conference today, Mr. Duncan was joined by County Council Education Committee Chair Michael Subin, who also voiced his support for the Board’s initiatives. Board of Education President Reginald Felton, Vice President Patricia O’Neill, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, and several state legislators outlined the need for the targeted programs. Final action by the Council on the Board’s recommendations is expected in May.
The new funding -- $7.6 million in state aid as a result of the Thornton Commission legislation and $5.9 million federal aid as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act -- will allow the Board of Education to continue addressing the growing impact of poverty, English as a second language, and students with disabilities. Many of these programs had been deferred because of budget limitations originally anticipated for next year.
The Board acted to approve the plans last night, based on recommendations from Dr. Weast. The plans amend the $1.4 billion budget request approved in January for Fiscal Year 2003.
State Aid Plans
* Full-day Kindergarten -- Full-day instruction for kindergarten students would be expanded to an additional nine schools, for a total of 56 schools (compared to nine schools altogether just three years ago). Schools with full-day kindergarten would now include all 53 Title I schools with kindergarten programs and three other schools with a high proportion of low-income students, as measured by participation in the Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) program.
The expansion would add 29 positions at a cost of $1.5 million. Schools to be included are Stedwick, Sequoyah, Forest Knolls, William Tyler Page, Rock Creek Valley, Sally K. Ride, Dr. Charles R. Drew, Woodlin, and Rock Creek Forest elementary schools. The new schools added to this initiative will have a class size of 15 students, permitting the acceleration of learning using the new literacy-based kindergarten curriculum.
* Class Size Reduction -- The plan to reduce class sizes in Grades 1 and 2 to a ratio of 17:1 in targeted schools would be completed by expanding to the nine additional schools referenced above. This would add 22 positions at a cost of $1.1 million. In addition, relocatable classrooms required for full-day kindergarten and class size reduction at these schools will cost $1.5 million.
* ESOL -- The multiyear initiative to improve the English for Speakers of Other Languages program would be continued as originally planned with the addition of 4.5 positions for bilingual assessment, bilingual counseling, and parent outreach at a cost of $226,152. These positions are not covered by specific staffing ratios and are essential to avoid backlogs from a growing number of ESOL students.
* Special Education -- In order to continue the multiyear staffing plan for special education, intensive research-based reading and writing intervention with highly trained teachers would be provided to the most disabled high school students in a reduced ratio setting. This would add $854,609 for one reading teacher position for special education students at each of 15 high schools and two psychologist positions.
* Middle School and High School Mathematics and Reading -- This planned program would add 12 positions for reading and mathematics teachers in six high-needs clusters at a cost of $617,693. The initiative would begin to address the need to have students receive the necessary academic assistance required in mathematics and reading to help them become successful on the state’s high school assessments.
* Building Services -- As the amount of school building space to be cleaned has grown, including a rising number of relocatable classrooms, building services staff has not been able to keep up with the requirements for maintaining a clean and safe environment for students and school staff. Delays in the schedule for modernization make it even more urgent to upgrade the safety and cleanliness of school buildings. The addition of 25 building service positions at $821,425 will enable MCPS to maintain current guidelines for the volume of space per building service workers while focusing on needed maintenance of building systems and safety features.
* Downcounty Consortium -- The implementation of the planned downcounty consortium would be possible for the Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Wheaton, and John F. Kennedy high school clusters. The funding will enable these schools to meet the unique needs of entering freshmen through smaller learning academies in Grade 9, each with their own signature themes to focus student learning, at a cost of $920,056.
* Adult Basic Education -- The state’s Bridge to Excellence legislation included a provision for additional funding for adult basic education classes. The Montgomery County allocation of $134,114 would be used to increase the number of adult education and adult ESOL classes. Funds will provide professional part-time salaries and related employee benefits.
Federal Aid Plans
* Title I -- The new federal legislation adds $2.6 million for the 18 federally funded Title I schools. These funds will provide 9 math specialists, 9 teacher positions for differentiated ESOL staffing based on the proficiency level of students, ESOL transition support, and seven differentiated (gifted and talented) teachers. Funding also will be used for required programming for staff development, family involvement, transportation for required student transfers in the federally funded schools, and required aid for nonpublic schools. Schools are allocated funds based on the number of FARMS students enrolled.
* Improving Teacher Quality (Title II) -- Additional funding in Title II for Improving Teacher Quality will be used for 0.5 math specialists in 13 state-funded Title I schools at a cost of $546,755, an additional eight consulting teachers, $402,095 to accelerate teacher participation in the Understanding Teaching course, staff development support for administrators, and two staff development content specialists in science and social studies. Title II funding for technology of $420,558 will permit continuation of previously grant-funded programs to advance the existing technology strategic plan, including programs to address the digital divide, supplementary technology in federally-funded Title I schools, and required support for non-public schools.
* ESOL (Title III) -- Additional federal ESOL funding will provide differentiated staffing based on student proficiency at four schools with high ESOL enrollment, transition support for students exiting the program, and 2.0 parent outreach positions in the Blair Cluster and the Northeast Consortium because of the growing number of ESOL students in those schools. These programs will add a total of 12.5 positions at a cost of $839,549.
* Safe and Drug-free Schools (Title IV) -- An additional $69,727 in Title IV funding for Safe and Drug-free Schools will be used for violence prevention, mental health, and substance abuse prevention programs in middle schools.
* Innovative Schools (Title V) -- An additional $16,114 in Title V funds for technology programs will be used to acquire additional computer equipment for schools.
* Vocational Education -- An additional $106,223 in vocational education (Perkins) funding will provide industry specific instructional materials and equipment for the growing number of high school students in these programs, up 18 percent in the last year.
* Special Education -- An additional $4,830 in support under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will be used for instructional materials for pre-school special education students.