ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education is one step closer to having its requested fiscal year 2020 operating budget fully funded.
The Council Education and Culture Committee adopted a change to the fiscal year 2020 budget, allowing the proposed amendment to proceed to the full council. The budget amendment of $29.5 million includes County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-4) and other council members’ recommended budget amendment of $5 million announced April 24, “additional FY20 state aid from the Kirwan legislation,” and money for MCPS pre-kindergarten funding ($1 million).
Committee members include Chairman Craig Rice (D-2), Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large) and Navarro.
Pending the Council’s approval, the proposed amendment approved by the committee May 2 would help the county fully fund the Montgomery County Public Schools’ FY 2020 operating budget as adopted by the Board of Education.
Governor Larry Hogan will play a role in deciding whether the council can add the funding passed by the state to the MCPS budget, as recommended by the Kirwan Commission, county Senior Legislative Analyst Craig Howard wrote in a memorandum to members of the Education and Culture Committee.
“This additional funding is contingent on the governor signing legislation releasing the funds as identified in the bill,” Howard wrote.
The council committee approved a couple of changes, which council staff, including Howard, recommended to County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed amendment. Elrich proposed a $35.4 million adjustment, but staff recommended the committee approve a $29.5 million amendment instead.
The proposed amendment adopted by the committee includes $5.1 million of increased county contribution. Plus $24.4 million from the Kirwan Commission – an increase of nearly $14 million from what the county requested. The Kirwan Commission is a group of legislators, state and county-level school officials and business leaders, who reviewed each public school system in the state and their respective funding formulae. It then allocated money to each school system to help pay for improvements. The county dollars would come from the general fund.
The money from Kirwan Commission recommendations is outlined in Senate Bill 1030: The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which was passed by the General Assembly. Howard wrote that the bill includes $24.4 million for MCPS.
MCPS Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith said the Board of Education may not spend money it is slated to receive from the council until it is approved and MCPS has received it.
“Everyone expects it to be signed and the money to be released, but we’ll all have a big sigh of relief when it is (signed),” Smith said, on Hogan’s pending approval of Kirwan Commission-recommended funds for MCPS.
If signed by the governor, The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will include $2,373,070 for MCPS to be spent on existing costs of full-day pre-kindergarten, which the council and Board of Education had expanded during the past few years.
It also includes $9.1 million to fund increases in enrollment and accelerators in special education; it will also pay for more supports for special education. That’s about $1. 3 million more than requested. The bill also includes $8.1 million for salary increases for teachers, with teachers who have fewer than five years of experience being given priority.
The full council is slated to put the amendment to a vote before approving its budget in June.
During the April 24 press conference, Navarro said she believed the council will likely approve the $5.1-million budget amendment of county money because five council members were present for the press conference announcing the proposed amendment.
During a press conference he held on March 7, where he was joined by the county council, Elrich recommended giving $1 million to be spent on early childhood education and pre-kindergarten within MCPS. Elrich’s recommended appropriation for MCPS does not include the $1 million, and so the council will need to add it to the appropriation later.
Rice said preschool funding is an ongoing council priority.
“Our commitment is there and will always be there to continue to expand (seats for pre-kindergarten),” Committee Chairman Rice said during the meeting.
Elrich’s recommended budget, dated March 15, included $14.5 million less than the school board had requested, but the amendment adopted by the committee would close that gap, plus add $16 million more.