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Schools Superintendent Recommends $2.52 Billion Operating Budget

For his first budget cycle as the head of Montgomery County Public Schools, Dr. Jack R. Smith had submitted a proposed operating budget totally $2.52 billion for Fiscal Year 2018. The proposed budget is $62.4 million higher than last year’s propose budget, which is a 2.5 percent increase, and 1.5 percent over the minimum county funding level.

According to the release, the $2.52 billion operating budget will allow the district to manage significant enrollment growth and build the foundation and structure that is needed to ensure that all MCPS students are able to achieve at higher levels.

“My operating budget recommendation builds on investments the district has made over the years and reflects our core values of learning, relationships, respect, excellence and equity,” Superintendent Smith said. “This budget defines a clear path to improved achievement for all and instills confidence that MCPS will fulfill its core purpose of preparing all students to thrive in the future.”

Most of the $62.37 million spending increase will be used to provide the same level of services to a growing number of students; fund ongoing salaries and benefits; and manage increasing operational costs. The recommendation includes $10.21 million in what the school district calls, strategic priority accelerators that are focused on improving student performance while narrowing achievement gaps.

Smith’s recommendation reflects the Board of Education’s budget interests and significant input from a broad array of stakeholders.This included staff, parents, students and community members who were a part of several budget teams and provided input on specific areas of need.

Smith presented his budget to the Board of Education during its Dec. 13 business meeting. Michael Durso, president of the Board of Education, encouraged the public to get informed and become involved in the budget process.

“We appreciate the hard work and collaboration that went into creating this budget recommendation,” Durso said. “We look forward to hearing from the public on Dr. Smith’s recommendation, as we seek to build a budget that will help us meet the needs of our growing student population, staff, and community.”

One of the major factors contributing to the need for increased funding is the increase in the number of students which MCPS is serving. Enrollment in MCPS this school year is 159,010 students, an increase of more than 2,500 students compared with last year and more than 21,000 students since 2007. By 2022, enrollment is expected to reach 168,480, according to MCPS.

The school system estimates that the percentage of students needing services to ensure their success—such as Free and Reduced-price Meals (FARMS) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services—will continue to grow as well. Currently, 34.5 percent of students receive FARMS, and 14.2 percent of students participate in ESOL.

In order to manage the projected growth in FY 2018, Smith’s budget recommendation adds more than 226 positions, including 120 general elementary/secondary positions, 64.8 positions for special education services, 29.9 positions for ESOL instruction, and 35.5 positions for student transportation, school plant operations, and food services.

The recommendation also includes $32.20 million for continuing salary costs and $16.65 million to pay for benefits for current and retired employees. There are $24.68 million in efficiencies and reductions in the budget, including further cuts to central services and the elimination of instructional data analyst positions.

Smith’s recommendation includes $10.21 million for what he is calling “strategic accelerators,” which includes 22 positions. These resources will help intensify efforts to close persistent opportunity gaps and improve academic excellence for all.

“If achievement and opportunity gaps can be closed anywhere, I believe they can be closed here, and we must act now to create a school system where academic success is not predictable by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language or disability,” Smith said. “Our commitment to equity in no way lessens our commitment to excellence. Our commitment is to raise to excellence those students who have not yet achieved at their highest potential.”

The strategic accelerators are grouped in the following five key areas: improve teaching and learning; focus on learning, accountability and results; focus on human capital; focus on community partnerships and engagement, and focus on operational excellence.

Graphics courtesy MCPS.

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