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Board of Ed OKs $2.46 Billion Operating Budget With 6 Percent Increase

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Montgomery County Board of Education on unanimously approved a final $2.46 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2017. The budget contains a $139 million increase, or 6.0 percent jump, over FY 2016’s budget.

The school district said the approved budget also provides $37.9 million of targeted funding that will allow Montgomery County Public Schools to reduce class sizes in many classrooms across the district and accelerate 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.

“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.”

“We have all been members of the Board for years and every year we have been cutting and cutting, and cutting,” said At-Large Board Member Phil Kaufman during Tuesday’s Board of Education Meeting. “I think to a certain extent we have been guilty of patting ourselves on the back, in those years in saying we were able to absorb those cuts, and it didn’t make a difference. However, I think, those cuts did make a difference, and it really bubbled up this year in terms of the testimony that we heard from our community. We have had to move in a difference direction. This was more about articulating what we need.”

Among the investments in education that MCPS says this budget fund include: Lowering class sizes with additional teachers; 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 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; and expanding the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program and the Minority Scholars program to additional schools.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Larry Bowers, said at the meeting, “The Board’s request was reduced by about $41 million. Everything we wanted just wasn’t possible. I want to thank and commend our union partners for all of their work. I know that some of our employees are disappointed because they are not getting the raises that had been negotiated. Certainly, the Board of Education and I never want to be in a position where we have to do that. But, I think, in balancing everything we have, this is truly a budget that reflects the interest and the needs.”

Last month, the council told the Board of Ed that the planned 8 percent increase due to teachers, administrators and staff over the next year under the terms of collective bargaining agreements could not be justified, given the challenges facing the school district. Those include ­severe overcrowding and the achievement gaps separating white and Asian students from black and Latino students.

Council concerns about the long-term health of the system led to a 2017 appropriation that is $90 million above the minimum annual spending required by state law. In exchange for the increase, the council told the Board of Ed that it must cut the raises in the negotiated collective bargaining agreement and those funds must be redirected to address overcrowding and the achievement gap issues.