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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maintenance of Effort Waiver Granted

Because the County Government went below $137.7 Million + $19.7 Million in funding the specified legally-mandated Maintenance of Effort budget that the Board of Education proposed, it needed a waiver so that MCPS wouldn't get slapped with a penalty the following year.

After MCPS and the County Government came to a budget reconciliation agreement last week, the Maryland State Board of Education just voted 7-5 to grant MCPS the Maintenance of Effort Waiver for FY11 and not give MCPS a $51.3 Million penalty next year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FY 2011 Budget Reconciliation Agreement

Previously, I had told you all that the proposed County Executive's Budget contained a $137.7 Million reduction to the Board of Education's proposed budget. As of today, MCPS, the County Executive and the full Council (with a recent unanimous vote) agreed to the following more cuts and changes to the budget:

Reduce Tech mod and Relocatable projects in CIP (construction budget - not operating): $4.7 million
Additional operating budget reductions for FY11: $19.7 million
Total Additional Cuts $24.4 million

Carryover from FY 10 Operating Budget for energy tax: $2.0 million

We will now have to wait for the State Board of Education's ruling on Montgomery County's Maintenance of Effort Waiver to decide whether or not MCPS will lose an additional $52 Million in state aid or not. This will bring the total FY 11 reductions to $137.7 Million + $19.7 Million = $157.4 Million with the possibility of the state Board of Education making the reductions close to $210 Million if they do not grant the Maintenance of Effort Waiver.

I will keep you all informed as the situation progresses.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Joint Letter to County Council from Students Opposing Further Cuts to MCPS Budget

RE: Additional Cuts to the MCPS Budget

Dear Members of the County Council,

The Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils (often referred to as MCR-SGA) voted last week to take a position on the proposed additional cuts to the County Executive’s recommended operating budget for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). We are pleased to announce that the MCR Executive Board voted unanimously to support MCPS, MCEA, SEIU Local 500, and MCAAP in opposing any further cuts to the proposed FY 2011 MCPS operating budget. The Montgomery County Junior Councils, our middle-school counterpart, has pledged to take up the issue at their next meeting.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s budget meets 96% of the Board of Education’s request. MCPS is prepared to make cuts amounting to $137.7 million in its operating budget, thus meeting the County Executive’s proposed reductions. The Board of Education has assured us that it will do everything possible to limit the effect these cuts will have on the quality of education provided by the county. However, cuts to the MCPS budget exceeding $137.7 million will put in immediate jeopardy the education of over 142,000 students currently attending public schools in Montgomery County.

The students of MCPS are vehemently opposed to any additional cuts to the County Executive’s recommended operating budget for our school system. MCR-SGA and MCJC, as representatives of the student voice and as strong advocates on behalf of student concerns, are therefore of the opinion that further cuts will only harm the education MCPS can offer and, in turn, harm the potential of MCPS graduates in their roles and endeavors in the future.

Therefore, MCR-SGA and MCJC will actively oppose any further cuts to the proposed FY 2011 MCPS operating budget. Although we have remained relatively silent on this issue in the past, we have realized that we cannot sit idly by without defending our education and our school system, to which we owe so much of who we are and of who we will become.

Students, not staff or administrators, will be feeling the blunt of the reductions that you have proposed. With a skyrocketing increase in enrollment this past year and a reduction in staffing, students will be losing opportunities to sign-up for classes that they may wish to take. In many of our schools, where enrollment in higher level advanced and AP classes is already low, the subsequent increase in class sizes means less choices and less opportunities for our students to truly reach their full potential.

Programs that directly impact the students (such as summer school) and specialty programs that cater to individual student needs will be effectively cut or reduced. Furthermore, because of reductions in staffing, students will likely have less access to developing the student-teacher relationship that is truly essential to learning in our schools. These cuts will disproportionally affect our most at-risk students and will result not only in a decrease in the standards and outcomes of the education system overall, but also in the widening of the achievement gap and the elimination of the gains that thousands of staff and students have worked so hard to reach. It is simply not equitable to deny our students the opportunity to succeed.

Already, students have heard about the possible effects of proposed cuts to instruction, sports, extracurricular stipends, extended day programs, and activity buses – programs that have kept students engaged in the school community and active in participating outside of their schools. We, as students, realize the impact of these cuts in our communities and will not stand for such a hostile assault on our futures.

We are reminded everyday in school that education is the great equalizer – that education has the opportunity to create an unquantifiable multiplier effect among the community that raises the quality of living and the standards of society. Yet imagine a school system where teachers are not adequately trained or prepared to teach students with the latest techniques or content. Imagine a school system where teachers are scrambling to handle an increase in students with a decrease in preparation and instruction time. Imagine a school system where there are not enough counselors or academic intervention teachers to address the problems of our most at-risk students. Imagine a school system where students are not given the attention and the help they need in the media center to utilize and optimize resources and technology. Imagine a school system where students are not provided with safe and healthy schools that are kept clean and in top shape. Imagine a school system this time next year with a sharp increase in drop-out rates, leading to the inevitable deterioration of communities and a decrease in the standard of living. We can not and will not stand for such a school system, for further cuts will only serve to punish the hard work of our fellow staff and students.

Anyone that states that further cuts to our school system will not result in a direct impact to students and the classroom is telling a blatant lie. Education truly is the gateway to our futures and we, as students and as the largest stakeholder in the system, will not complacently remain silent as policy makers attempt to strip us of our opportunity to succeed and to achieve our true potential. We ask our elected officials and community leaders to please not do what is “right for politics” but do, instead, what is “right for the students.” Regardless of racial and linguistic barriers, regardless of geographic boundaries, and regardless of age differences, students across the county stand together in asking that education remain the top priority in our community.

As you make difficult decisions in the coming weeks, we hope you remember that you hold the futures of 142,000 students in your hands and that you have the tremendous burden of ensuring that those students are successful in their lives and careers. Therefore, we will stand united with our teachers, our administrators, our service employees, and our school board in asking that the County Council adopt a budget that:

1. Does not furlough ANY county employees
2. Avoids any additional cuts to MCPS beyond the $137.7 million already agreed to
3. Raises the full $101 million proposed increase in the energy tax
4. Phases in the restoration of the reserve fund by going to 5.6% in FY11 and then to 6% in FY12


Tim Hwang
Student Member, MCPS Board of Education

Daniel Arias
President, MCR-SGA

Richard Yarrow
President, MCJC