Starr Recommends $2.22 Billion Operating Budget (Video)
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released his recommended operating budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 today, with a strategic focus on managing growth, narrowing achievement gaps, and investing in the future of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and its students.
Starr is proposing a $2.217 billion budget for FY 2014, which is a $48.95 million increase over FY 2013—about 2.3 percent. The superintendent’s budget is $10 million—less than half of one percent—above the funding floor mandated by state law. Dr. Starr said his budget recommendation is the first step in a multiyear strategy aimed at moving MCPS forward.
“This is a responsible budget that allows us to keep up with our growing enrollment, while making strategic investments that will benefit our students today and in the future,” Starr said. “A budget is a reflection of our values and I know that Montgomery County understands the direct connection between the quality of our schools and the future our county.”
During the economic downturn, MCPS eliminated more than 1,300 positions in order to fund teaching and support positions needed to keep up with growth. Consequently, from FY 2008 to FY 2013, the enrollment of MCPS grew by 11,000 students, but the number of staff positions remained essentially flat. Starr’s FY 2014 budget recommendation begins to restore some of these important positions, while adding others in strategic areas, including middle schools, math instruction, and professional development.
“After years of cutting around the edges and doing more with less, it is time for us to invest in areas that will have the biggest impact on student achievement and success,” Starr said.
This budget is built on a significant amount of internal and external input that Starr received in a variety of ways. In September, the Board of Education approved its operating budget interests, which are areas that the Board feels are important to focus on in FY 2014. Starr also received input through the new “Neighbor to Neighbor” initiative http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/info/neighbor-to-neighbor/, which encouraged community members to participate in self-guided small group discussions on the operating budget. More than 20 Neighbor-to-Neighbor discussions were held this fall and notes from the conversations were submitted to the school district. Dr. Starr also received input during outreach events, community activities, and visits to nearly 100 schools over the past year.
The final budget recommendation was developed in partnership with school system’s three employee associations—the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals (MCAAP), and SEIU Local 500—as well as the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA).
“I am deeply grateful for the collaboration and dedication of our employees and our parents in helping to develop a budget recommendation that meets the needs of our students,” Starr said. “This partnership has helped make MCPS one of the nation’s best school districts and will allow us to continue to excel into the future.”
Starr presented his budget to the Montgomery County Board of Education on Dec. 11 during its regular all-day meeting. Christopher S. Barclay, president of the Board of Education, encouraged the public to get informed and become involved in the budget process.
“I want to thank Dr. Starr and his team for their hard work in developing his FY 2014 budget recommendation for the Board’s consideration,” Mr. Barclay said. “I look forward to hearing from the public on the superintendent’s recommendation and working with my Board colleagues to approve a budget that serves our students, staff, and community.”
The Board of Education will hold two public hearings on the budget—Thursday, January 10, and Thursday, January 17, at 7 p.m., in the Carver Educational Services Center. Individuals wishing to testify can sign up beginning on December 17 at 9 a.m. by calling 301-279-3617. The Board will then hold work sessions on the budget on Tuesday, January 22, and Thursday, January 24, before approving a final budget request on Tuesday, February 12. The budget will then be submitted to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council for consideration.
About 82 percent of Starr’s recommended budget increase is dedicated to managing growth and continuing costs. There are nearly 149,000 students in MCPS this school year, an increase of more than 11,000 students in just five years. That growth will continue as enrollment is expected to top 159,000 students by FY 2019.
At the same time, more of our students require specific services and support to ensure success. More than 49,300 students (33.2% of total enrollment) now receive free- and reduced-price meals, an increase of more than 12,000 students in just five years. Nearly 20,000 students (13.1% of enrollment) receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, a number that has essentially doubled since 2000.
Starr’s budget includes 127 new positions to serve an additional 2,336 students, as well as 22 positions to serve 900 more ESOL students. Starr has also added $8.5 million for growth in special education, which includes funds for 101 additional positions to increase individualized services to students. An additional $900,000 has been added for special education to account for inflation and increased costs.
The recommendation also includes $7.1 million for continuing salary costs and $15.4 million to pay for benefits for current and retired employees. The money for benefits includes $7.3 million for teacher pension costs that are being transferred from the state to local school boards. There are $4.3 million in efficiencies and reductions in the budget, including further cuts to central services, which has been reduced by more than 20 percent in the past five years.
Re-energizing Efforts to Narrow the Gap
For more than a decade, MCPS has had tremendous success narrowing the achievement gap in several areas, including AP access and successand early grades reading. In other areas, the gaps have been persistent and harder to narrow. Starr’s budget invests money in strategic areas to deepen the school system’s efforts to narrow the gaps and serve all students.
Some of the largest gaps in MCPS are seen in middle schools. Starr is proposing the hiring of 30 middle school focus teachers who will work with students struggling in mathematics and reading (an investment of $1.97 million). Starr is also recommending that staff development teacher positions—recently reduced to less than half-time in middle schools—be restored to a full-time position ($1.5 million). The staff development teachers are an integral part of making sure that middle school employees are receiving the training and support they need to best serve students.
Starr is also recommending additional investments to support high-quality math instruction in all schools. About $1.1 million of the budget would be realigned for the creation of a mathematics implementation team that will work in schools to improve the capacity of teachers to serve all students. Starr is also recommending the funding of 10 new elementary school teacher positions that will provide accelerated mathematics instruction to students who are ready for advanced work ($665,934).
Investing in the Future
This is a time of tremendous change in education. Some of those changes are happening very fast, including the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and new assessments at the state (PARCC) and national level (AP). MCPS is also continuing implementation of Curriculum 2.0, the district’s improved elementary curriculum that provides students with well-rounded academics and builds important 21st century skills.
Starr’s budget includes an increase of $1.55 million for professional development around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Curriculum 2.0. The budget recommendation also includes money for additional substitutes that will allow our secondary school teachers to fully participate in professional development activities ($800,000). Starr is also recommending the addition of four consulting teachers who will work with new educators and those who are struggling ($314,854). This is an important part of the district’s highly successful professional growth system.
Other additions to the budget are based on the needs of our schools and the feedback from parents, staff, and community members, including:
– The addition of five elementary instrumental music teachers ($327,967)
– The restoration of 11 school support positions at small elementary schools, including media specialists, staff development teachers, reading specialists and counselors ($721,528)
– The addition of an assistant school administrator and .5 school secretary position at the district’s three largest elementary schools ($436,161)
– Funds for a districtwide baseline concussion system ($75,000)
– Funds to support the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program, a collaborative effort with Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove aimed at increasing postsecondary enrollment and success ($94,000)
MCPS Budget Website< http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/budget/>
Overview of Superintendent’s Recommended Budget< http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/info/pdf/FY2014BudgetSummary.pdf>