MCPS budget plan means cuts – but not at students’ expense
The Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent proposed a $2.59 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019, an increase of $67.3 million from the $2.52 billion FY 2018 budget.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said he prioritized in his budget helping student performance and supporting schools.
“My budget recommendation focuses on the foundational elements of our district – students, classrooms and schools,” Smith said. “This budget addresses increasing enrollment, rising costs and critical investments to both maintain the level of academic excellence our schools are known for and to close the gaps in access, opportunity and achievement for students who have yet to meet their potential.”
In his proposed FY 2019 budget, Smith said he wants to eliminate 72.6 jobs and cut costs by $10,761,420. Within those cuts, he proposed cost reductions in central services by $7,976,301 and 55.6 positions.
Smith said Dec. 19 he wants to move positions out of the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville, also known as Central Office, and into schools. That means, “More staff to support schools, so that when a school has work they’re doing in special education, student services and equity that there’s someone assigned to their school, not an office at Central that they call,” Smith said. “That’s the only difference – that someone’s actually physically assigned to their school.”
He proposed cutting or realigning 25.8 positions and $2,281,280 from the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs. He proposed relocating 10 central office English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) coach positions out of the Curriculum and Instructional Programs office and into schools.
“These employees will now be working directly with students and teachers,” Smith said.
More than 200 people, including hundreds of central office staff and school principals and assistant principals, attended Smith’s presentation on his proposed budget Dec. 19 at Rockville High School; the auditorium was nearly full. Before Smith’s presentation, Dave Airozo, a teacher at Forest Knolls Elementary School, said many teachers want to see more people in their schools to help with teaching, such as paraeducators and teachers for English language learners, citing a Montgomery County Education Association union survey from this year. Airozo is a member of the MCEA teacher’s union board of directors, but he said he was speaking only for himself.
“I need more supports in my classroom to meet the needs of my kids,” said Airozo.
Smith proposed increasing investment in the psychological health of students, specifically by increasing the number of psychologists by the equivalent of two full-time positions, and by proposing to audit psychological services in every school in the district in FY 2019.
“We’re just doing an audit in the system in all the schools to see what they’re doing in social and psychological supports for students… and then we want to create a system across – a system across the whole school district and
making sure that’s having one in every school, all grades, all students.”
He also proposed starting a recovery program for students who have had problems with substance abuse so they can return to school.
“Academic programs will be established for students undergoing recovery, due to substance abuse or acculturation issues, to ensure that students are academically successful and to support their social/physical and psychological well-being,” Smith said.
He included $260,000 for part-time salaries for the new recovery program and included $15,000 for supplies for instruction.
Smith said he plans to expand the MCPS restorative justice program. Dec. 19 was the kickoff of re-examining the program.
Smith’s vision for the program is “Just that adults and students have really good strategies, just to sit down and talk about what’s not working, what happens when something goes wrong, or just about how to make a classroom or a school a stronger or more positive place for everyone,” Smith said. “When human beings talk to each other and work together, things work better. That’s what that’s about.”
“We appreciate the effort and collaboration that helped shape this budget recommendation,” Board of Education President Michael 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 ensure all students have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.”
Smith said the allocations within his proposed budget will likely change when MCPS receives grant monies. The Board of Education is scheduled to hold several public hearings and work sessions on the operating budget starting Thursday, Jan. 4.
MCPS’ contract negotiations with the Montgomery County Education Association, the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, and Service Local 500 are ongoing.