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Superintendent Recommends $2.13 Billion Operating Budget for Next Fiscal Year | Schools

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Superintendent Recommends $2.13 Billion Operating Budget for Next Fiscal Year
Superintendent Recommends $2.13 Billion Operating Budget for Next Fiscal Year


The following information was sent to us by Montgomery County Public Schools:


Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Operating Budget Recommendation Wednesday, with an eye on managing the growth of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), acknowledging the excellence of its employees and making a commitment to maximize the district’s resources in key areas.

Dr. Starr is recommending a $2.128 billion budget for FY 2013, a 2 percent increase over the current fiscal year—the smallest increase requested in the past 12 years. Dr. Starr said the requested increase is relatively small, but is extremely important to keep up with the school system’s growing and changing enrollment.

“MCPS has added nearly 9,000 students to its schools in the past six years and we expect to add another 9,000 by 2017,” Dr. Starr said. “If we are going to effectively manage our growth and continue our tradition of excellence, we must maintain our commitment to our schools, our staff and our children.” 

Much of the recent enrollment growth has occurred in elementary schools, and these students are coming to the district with more needs, such as Free and Reduced-price Meals (FARMS) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services. For instance, approximately 13.1 percent of MCPS students require ESOL services systemwide, but in the elementary schools that rate increases to 22.5 percent.  And since 2007, the number of students eligible for FARMS has increased by 11,785 children systemwide, much of this growth occurring in elementary schools. MCPS now has 47,365 students receiving FARMS—more than the total number of students in District of Columbia Public Schools. 

This budget recommendation is the culmination of information, data and feedback received from a broad array of external and internal stakeholders since Dr. Starr began his tenure as superintendent of schools on July 1. In that time, Dr. Starr:

- Has received a report from his Transition Team of outside experts and district staff who reviewed the three major components of MCPS—teaching and learning, operations, and culture/context—and made specific recommendations;
- Received input from staff, parents, students and community members during 17 Listen and Learn events, two Student Town Halls, and the Board of Education’s Community Conversations.
- Visited more than 50 schools to observe teaching and learning, as well as management and operations of the district; and
- Discussed the Board of Education’s operating budget interests.

The final budget recommendation was developed in collaboration with the 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, which represents supporting services personnel. The Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA) was also part of the team that developed this recommendation. 

Dr. Starr submitted his recommendation to the Montgomery County Board of Education, which will hold public hearings on the budget January 11 and 18 and then hold work sessions on January 25 and 26. The Board will adopt a final FY 2013 operating budget request on February 14, which will then be submitted to the County Executive and County Council for consideration.

Continued Success

The economic downturn that has hit our region and our country has had a profound impact on MCPS, its staff and students. Coupled with the district’s dramatic growth, these fiscal realities have required some very difficult reductions and concessions on the part of the district’s employees. Since Fiscal Year 2009, per student funding has dropped by more than $1,000 per student and MCPS has made about $430 million in budget reductions. Among the reductions:

- Class sizes have increased about one student per classroom, on average;
- Employees have agreed to forego cost-of-living increases for three consecutive years and step increases for the past two years, saving $144 million;
- More than 1,300 positions have been eliminated, mostly teachers and staff who directly support instruction; 
- Mid-year savings of about $73 million have been realized through hiring freezes and expenditure restrictions; and
- The central services budget has been reduced by more than 20 percent.

Despite these reductions, MCPS students have continued to achieve at very high levels. For instance, the Class of 2011 was one of the most successful in the district’s history, with an average SAT score of 1637 and half of the graduates receiving a college-ready score on at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam. Last year’s graduates also earned more than $264 million in college scholarships, and 89 seniors were named National Merit Scholars. 

To that end, the superintendent’s budget recommendation includes funds for step and longevity increases and reserves $8 million for other compensation, depending on the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations with the MCPS employee associations. Negotiations are expected to conclude in the spring. 

Maintain and Focus Resources 

Dr. Starr’s recommendation meets the state’s maintenance of effort—or MOE—requirement, which mandates that the county funds education at the same per-student level from one year to the next. The county has not met MOE for three years and, since FY 2009, has reduced its per-student funding by $1,490 per child. 

The 2 percent increase—$41.4 million—proposed by Dr. Starr is made up mostly of funds for enrollment growth ($14.1 million); employee benefits and insurance costs ($15.1 million) and inflation, materials and other expenses ($9.9 million). Dr. Starr’s budget recommendation also plans for $8.1 million in budget efficiencies and reductions, including the elimination of the equivalent of 18 positions in central office and 6 positions in transportation. Dr. Starr is not recommending any cuts to school-based staff. 

Only about $23 million of this increase would come from the county, a 1.7 percent increase that matches the rate of expected enrollment growth in FY 2013.

Because the county did not meet MOE this fiscal year (FY 2012) and did not seek a waiver from the provision, the state is expected to withhold $26 million in state aid for FY 2013 as a penalty. Dr. Starr said he expects the county to restore that money to the school budget. 

Dr. Starr said over the next year, he and the staff of MCPS will focus on improvement in three major areas:  professional development for all employees; academic interventions for all students; and community engagement. Dr. Starr said the main focus will be on ensuring that the district’s current efforts are strategic, coherent and efficient. 


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