The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a $2.52 billion operating budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. This includes an increase of $64.24 million from FY 2017.
The MCPS press release stated, “The student-centered budget will allow the district to manage significant enrollment growth and build the foundation and structure needed to ensure that all MCPS students are able to achieve at higher levels.”
Last year the Board approved a FY2017 operating budget of $2.50 billion, which contained an additional $45.7 million that was requested by then interim Superintendent Larry Bowers. This year’s operating budget would mark a $109.94 million increase over two years.
“This budget is a reflection of our values and commitment to ensuring all students have the opportunities, resources and support they need to meet their full potential,” said Board President Michael Durso. “Our requested budget allows us to build on our momentum toward closing the achievement gap by expanding what is working, and implementing new, targeted strategies to accelerate its closure.”
A majority of the $64.24 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.
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.
“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 when releasing the budget back in December. “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.”
The recommendation also includes $11.01 million in strategic priority accelerators focused on improving student performance while narrowing achievement gaps. The accelerators are grouped by the five strategic priorities that Superintendent Jack Smith outlined at the start of the school year: Improving Teaching and Learning; Learning, Accountability, and Results; Human Capital; Community Partnerships and Engagement; Operational Excellence.
Additionally, the Board’s adopted operating budget restores 35.5 Full-time Equivalent positions for reading initiative teachers in kindergarten through second grade. These positions had been realigned in the superintendent’s recommended operating budget.
The Board’s adopted operating budget recommendation reflects input from a broad array of stakeholders, including staff, parents, students and community members. The Board held two budget hearings and feedback was also gathered online, said the press release.
Investments in these areas will allow MCPS to maintain its excellent programs; expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics courses and extracurricular opportunities; increase access to Career Technology Education programs; allocate money to ensure that any student in Grade 11 who wants to take the SAT, ACT or a career certification assessment can do so, free of charge; provide training for teachers to hone their craft; provide professional learning for teachers and paraeducators on issues of cultural competence, implicit bias, and restorative practice; and implement a new data management system.
The Board will submit its budget request to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council by March 1. County Executive Leggett is expected to release his budget recommendation by March 15. The Montgomery County Council will hold public hearings on the county budget in April before passing a final budget in May. The Board of Education will vote again in June for final adoption of the budget.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.