The Board of Education today [Tuesday, June 11] approved the Fiscal Year 2003 operating budget of $1.4 billion, an increase of $88.5 million (6.7 percent) over the current year, following full-funding of the requested budget last month by the County Council and endorsement of the funding plan earlier this year by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.
The expanded budget includes new funding for continued growth in enrollment, projected to be more than 138,000 students next year, and the opening of a new middle school (Newport Mill in the Einstein cluster). The budget also includes funding of negotiated agreements for teachers, administrators and support personnel.
The increased funding was made possible, in part, by $21.3 million in savings and efficiencies approved by the Board this year. Over the last three years, the school system has cut $51.4 million in expenditures to offset increased costs and program improvements.
The new budget permits the school system to move ahead with a series of instructional and operational initiatives in targeted schools. These initiatives include expansion of full-day kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2 class size reduction, literacy programs, improved ESOL services, special education improvements, and support of the Downcounty Consortium.
The initiatives are designed to advance the Our Call to Action plan and improve the instruction for students with special needs, including those from low-income families, students who receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, and special education students.
Altogether the instructional improvement initiatives total $15.2 million for the upcoming school year. This includes $3.4 million to expand full-day kindergarten to a total of 56 schools, and $1.1 million to reduce class size in Grades 1 and 2 to a ratio of 17:1 in these schools. In addition, $2.7 million is being used to expand Title I services in 18 federally funded Title I schools, $2.5 million to promote workforce excellence, and $3.3 million to broaden literacy programs (including ESOL services, support for middle and high school reading and mathematics, and the Downcounty Consortium). The remainder of the improvement funding is being allocated to special education ($0.9 million) and other improvement initiatives in the areas of building services and technology ($1.3 million).
Reginald M. Felton, president of the Board of Education, said the high level of funding for the budget was "the result of the great collaboration and involvement by a significant number of people who believe in the success of our schools."
“The challenge we now face is to implement this budget in a prompt and effective manner in order to retain the considerable confidence that our community has shown in MCPS,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “I have complete confidence in the capacity of our teachers, supporting services staff, supervisors, and administrators to fulfill this responsibility.”