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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Responses to Questions from the Board's Meeting with Student Leaders

Below are memoranda forwarded on behalf of the superintendent of schools regarding questions submitted by students at the Board of Education's recent meeting with student leaders.

The questions discuss: Portable Communication Devices, bullying, ESOL, Middle School Reform, and school lunch prices.

11.04.06 Port Comm Dev

11.04.06 Bullying Question

11.04.06 ESOL Program Question

11.04.06 MS Reform Plans

11.04.06 School Lunch Prices

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gazette: SMOB Voting Rights

Student board member voting bill running short on time
Measure running into Senate opposition again
by Alan Brody | Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation that would grant full voting rights to the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education passed the House of Delegates on Monday afternoon, but still faces resistance in the Senate.
The county's Senate delegation was considering taking up the bill Monday night, after The Gazette newsletter's deadline.
Several student government leaders appealed to the Senate delegation last week to pass the bill so it can be considered by the full chamber, but a vote on the measure was delayed. The House vote in favor of the measure was 92-39.
Student advocates have lobbied state lawmakers for two years to grant the student member of the board, who is elected to a one-year term by county middle and high school students, the right to vote on collective bargaining, budget actions, school closings and boundary decisions. Currently, they can register an opinion on those issues, but it does not count toward the overall vote.
Under the proposal, the student member would still be barred from weighing in on disciplinary matters involving teachers.
Montgomery County delegates overwhelmingly approved the legislation in early February, but several senators are hesitant to allow students the same voting privileges as members elected by countywide voters.
"These are great kids and they're really sincere and really competent, but this is undemocratic," said state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda.
The student member is largely elected by nonvoting residents who do not pay county taxes and therefore do not have the same perspective as adult members, he said. Students also should not have to endure contentious debates on redistricting that can even be difficult for adult members, Frosh added.
"The hardest part of our job here is to say no and you don't learn that before you graduate high school," he explained.
State Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville also is uncomfortable granting student members full voting rights, but said she would be amenable to extending their privileges to one or two categories.
The current student school board member, Alan Xie, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School, told senators last week that it's important for the student representative to have voting rights on all board decisions because they directly impact the student body.
"The presence of an informed and franchised student member strengthens board decisions," echoed Michael Hagan, a Damascus High School senior who is president of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, the statewide student government association.
Anne Arundel County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that grants full voting rights to its student school board member. Several other counties allow partial voting rights.
Staff writer Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.

SMOB Voting Rights Passes the House!

On March 26th, the House voted to pass HB 539 by a vote of 92 to 39. Congratulations to everyone who's worked so hard to lobby for this bill, and thanks so much to all of the Delegates who voted in favor of passing it! You are truly doing a service to the educational system in Montgomery County.

Now, we are waiting on Senate action. The bill underwent First Reading in the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 25th, and a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 5th at 1 PM.

The hearing will be located at 2 West Miller Senate Building, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401-1991.  See this list for the complete schedule; it's important to note that the bills are listed may not be the order in which they're heard. Anyone wishing to testify should arrive in Annapolis and sign the witness register by 12 PM Noon. If you have written testimony, please submit 25 copies to committee staff by 12 PM Noon for distribution prior to the hearing. After 12 PM Noon, please submit testimony at the time that you testify. The Committee will receive testimony from its sponsors (Delegates Kaiser and Hucker), department, and limited proponents and opponents.

Please show up to provide support for the bill or deliver testimony!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Valerie Ervin on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Check out County Council President Valerie Ervin on the Kojo Nnamdi Show (88.5 FM). She's also a former Board of Education member.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Superintendent Search - Leadership Profile Report

For everyone who hasn't seen it, here's the Leadership Profile Report from HYA about the Superintendent Search. Stay tuned for more info!

This 21-page document summarizes public input about the search, with data disaggregated by stakeholder.

Superintendent Search Feedback                                                                                            

Friday, March 4, 2011

Potential Budget Reductions

Below is Dr. Weast's Revised Summary of Potential Budget Reductions.

Staffing Allocation March 4, 2011                                                                                            

Bethesda Magazine Interview with Dr. Weast

The Last Lessons of Jerry Weast

A question and answer session with the retiring superintendent of Montgomery County Public School.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Funding Our Children’s Future: The Right Thing to Do

Funding Our Children’s Future: The Right Thing to Do
February 18, 2011

Dear Friend of Montgomery County Public Schools:

On February 14, 2011, the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a $2.2 billion FY 2012 operating budget request for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Mindful of the economic climate, the Board adopted the minimum funding level mandated under the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law, which requires counties to fund education at the same per student level each year. In order for Montgomery County to meet MOE, it must increase local education funding by $82 million to address increased enrollment of more than 3,300 students. If the county fails to meet its minimum funding obligation under MOE, as a penalty, the school district may lose at least $22 million in additional state aid. The Board’s adopted budget request, which includes no new programs, will now be submitted to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council for consideration.

As a Board, we have been careful fiscal stewards. When there were federal stimulus dollars available, we were able to assist our county in closing the deficit. In the last two years alone, we have worked hand-in-hand with the county to waive $250 million dollars owed to MCPS. Over the past three years, MCPS has saved more than $300 million through budget cuts and expenditure controls. This has resulted in the loss of hundreds of positions, drastic reductions in central administrative services, and an increase of class size by an average of one student. In fact, MCPS is now spending $1,000 less per student this year (FY 2011) than it did last year.

The superintendent has released a sobering list of non-recommended cuts that amount to approximately $50 million. The Board has not taken action on specific cuts, but it is likely that we will need to make reductions before this budget is finalized. The challenge would be to make reductions that are not so deep that they do lasting damage to our schools. If we have to take the non-recommended cuts as proposed by the superintendent, the effect on direct delivery of instruction will be devastating. Regardless, every student in every school across the county will be affected by the reductions that are coming. We have concerns about the ability of the central office to manage the school system with the cuts being proposed. Some officials believe we can continue to absorb cut after cut without affecting student outcomes. They are wrong. Increases to class size, and cuts to counselors, paraeducators, special education and other teachers, special programs, sports, after-school activities, and other staff and programs will have devastating impacts that will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

The Board’s action on the budget followed the good news that Governor Martin O’Malley has recommended providing the school district with $37.2 million more in state aid than had been anticipated in the FY 2012 operating budget. These recommendations are needs-based and speak eloquently to how much Montgomery County has changed over the past decade; it is no longer the wealthy enclave that people think it is. The governor’s actions signal how much he appreciates the need to keep MCPS a top-functioning school system renowned for its commitment to academic success for all children. The Board thanks Governor O’Malley for standing by the children of Montgomery County at a time of great fiscal anxiety and exploding enrollment. Many more of the students coming to us are living in poverty and bring greater needs into the classroom than ever before.

Some County Council members have suggested that while they support the intent of the MOE law, its requirements should be relaxed in times of fiscal crisis. These suggestions come at a time when the federal stimulus dollars for public education have dried up and the state has signaled its intention to shift the cost of pensions to local school systems. The Board agrees that the MOE law should be amended—for different reasons. As currently written, if the County Council does not fund the school system at the maintenance of effort level, and a waiver is not granted, the penalty hits the schools’ budget directly, and penalizes our students twice. The Board intends to work with all the other school systems in Maryland to effect a change in this law in Annapolis. We salute our County Council and county executive for their past support of our school system. MCPS is a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education because of our community’s tradition of demanding and funding excellence in education. We ask our leaders to simply obey the law and fund our budget at the minimum MOE floor level. It is the right thing to do.


Christopher S. Barclay
President, Montgomery County Board of Education

For more information on the FY 2012 budget, visit our website.

Friday, February 11, 2011

SMOB Candidates

Today was the SMOB Nominating Convention, and there was a great turnout of middle and high school kids from all across the county. Several members of the Board of Education also provided comments.

The final two candidates for this year's SMOB election are Hal Zeitlin and me, and the election will take place on April 13th.

Check out each candidate's voter guide here:

Superintendent's Recommendation for Wheaton & Edison

Dr. Weast has recommended that Wheaton and Edison retain their separate identities, and that we identify program and budget efficiencies to help develop the unique programs at each school.

His specific suggestions regarding programs, the budget, and recruitment are below:


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Budget Clarification

The County Council has to provide us with $82.1 million (4.7%) more for FY 2012 than last year to meet Maintenance of Effort. This would be $10,664 per student.They said they weren't going to do that.

Governor O'Malley's proposed budget includes a $37 million increase in state aid on top of the original $27 million increase, resulting in a projected $64 million increase in state aid this year. Part of O'Malley's increased state aid covers our loss of ARRA funds this year.

As of now, the County Council has not confirmed that they will provide any of the additional $82 million in funding. If we don't get this $82 million, we'll have to eliminate step increases and delay funding retiree benefits ($34 million). We'll also have to make personnel/program cuts totaling $48 million.

This is where Dr. Weast's recently released list of possible budget cuts comes from. The items on this list total $48 million and 650 positions, and they give us an idea of what may have to be cut if the County Council doesn't give us the $82 million. These cuts aren't listed in any particular order, and are not recommended. You can find them here.

If the County Council doesn't give us the $82 million, we'll also face a penalty in loss of increased state aid of at least $22 million, totalling $104 million in lost funding. This will be extremely hurtful to the school system, and we can't let this happen.

Budget Work Session

Today the Board of Education spent all day in a budget work session, listening to staff present the budget chapter by chapter and reviewing each department meticulously.

The budget will be voted on by the Board of Education on February 14th.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Education Legislation

Here's a list of relevant education-related legislation that's been proposed this year. For each bill, below I've listed the number, a link to the text, a summary, and my stance on it.

HB1: Education - Youth Athletes - Concussions
Summary: Requires county Boards of Education and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association to provide education regarding concussions and take appropriate action related to such injuries.
Stance: Support with amendment (the school system can't be held accountable for educating all people involved in non-school related youth activities)

HB38/SB489: Nonpublic Schools Accepting State Funds – Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation – Policies
Summary: Nonpublic schools that accept state funds must adopt an anti-bullying/harassment policy.
Stance: Support

HB44/SB53: Education - Waiver from Maintenance of Effort Requirement - Process and Factors
- Summary: Changes certain factors regarding the Maintenance of Effort requirement and waiver process.
- Stance: Support with amendment (allowing a county's history of exceeding MOE to be evaluated in the context of the MSDE Education Effort Index)

HB73: Vehicle Laws - School Buses - Prohibition on Permitting Sitting on Floor or Standing
Summary: Prohibits a person responsible for students on a school bus from permitting said students from standing or sitting on the floor.
StanceOppose (Issue is already addressed in COMAR - penalizing transportation staff is unnecessary)

HB127/SB262: State Board of Education - Financial Literacy Curriculum - Graduation Requirement
Summary: Requires the State Board of Education to develop a financial literacy course, each county to implement it, and students to complete it as a required graduation credit.
Stance: Oppose

SB41: Education - Age for Compulsory Public School Attendance - Exemptions
Summary: Raises compulsory age of school attendance to 17.
Stance: Support

SB109: Public Institutions of Higher Education - Course Credit - Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Examinations
Summary: Requires public institutions of higher education to grant the same credit for AP and IB.

SB167: Higher Education - Tuition Charges - Maryland High School Students
Summary: Allows individuals who graduated from Maryland high schools to pay resident tuition at public institutions of higher education (excluding documented immigrants). Similar to the federal Dream Act.

Thomas Edison HS/Wheaton HS Roundtable Advisory Committee Report

The Thomas Edison High School of Technology/Wheaton High School Roundtable Advisory Committee released its report last week.

Superintendent of schools Dr. Weast will be reviewing the report as he develops his recommendation about Edison and Wheaton.

On February 8th (tomorrow) Dr. Weast will release his recommendation.
On February 28th, the Board of Education will have a work session.
On March 15th, the Board of Education will hold a public hearing.
Finally, on March 28th, the Board of Education will take action.

The Committee developed several approaches to deal with Edison and Wheaton. Below is an excerpt from the report describing each approach.

Approach 1—One Comprehensive High School and One Career Technology Education (CTE) Center on Current Site
A. Status Quo
• Maintain existing relationship between Thomas Edison High School of Technology (Edison) and Wheaton High School
• Program improvements as needed for Edison and Wheaton High School
B. Edison and Wheaton High School in one building
• Buildings are attached and located on the current site
• Keep Edison and Wheaton High School separate and add an application-based magnet program at Wheaton High School
• Expand enrollment in the CTE center programs at Edison
• Upgrade programs and expand partnerships at Edison and Wheaton High School
• No redundancy in CTE programs between Edison and Wheaton High School
C. Two separate buildings for Edison and Wheaton High School
• Keep Edison and Wheaton High School separate and add an application-based magnet program at Wheaton High School
• Expand enrollment in the CTE center programs at Edison
• Upgrade programs and expand partnerships at Edison and Wheaton High School
• No redundancy in CTE programs between Edison and Wheaton High School

Approach 2—One Comprehensive High School that Includes the CTE Programs of Thomas Edison High School of Technology and Wheaton High School
A. One comprehensive high school on the site that serves the needs of all students
• School offers graduation requirement courses, current Wheaton  High School  CTE programs, and current Edison CTE center programs in one Grades 9–12 school.
• School serves the whole continuum of students—for example, special education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Gifted and Talented (GT), Advanced Placement (AP)
• Expand the time period to acquire credits for CTE programs from 2 years (Grades 11 and 12 for most programs) to 4 years
• Add CTE preparatory courses as needed in Grades 9 and 10
• Provide two enrollment patterns:
• For Downcounty Consortium (DCC) students:  Enroll in the comprehensive high school without designating a specific CTE program or choose to apply to the CTE center programs
• For students outside DCC:  Students across the county apply to the CTE programs5
B. One  comprehensive  high  school on the site that serves the needs of all students and allows students to enroll after Grade 9.
• Same as 2.A. but allows additional students to enroll in comprehensive  high  school for Grades 10, 11, or 12
C. One  comprehensive  high  school on the site that serves the needs of all students and allows students to enroll in CTE programs for part of the day while remaining enrolled in their home high school.
• Same as 2.A. but allows additional students to enroll in CTE programs in Grades 10, 11, or 12 for part of the day while remaining enrolled in their home high school

Approach 3—Wheaton High  School Remains on the Current Site and CTE Center Programs Are Relocated to Another Site
• Move Edison CTE center programs to another location
• Upgrade CTE programs at Edison and create additional partnerships with businesses
• Make Wheaton High School a high-tech high school and expand partnerships

Approach 4—Multiple Locations for CTE Programs
• Create three comprehensive CTE centers throughout the county
• Students would attend the center for CTE programs and attend their home high school for most graduation requirements
• CTE programs that are packaged together by industry/subject matter and divided among separate comprehensive high schools, which would allow student to have more access to programs (disperse Edison CTE center programs to comprehensive high schools across the county)
• Roll the CTE/magnet programs into other modernization projects and offer an upcounty and downcounty CTE center
• Make Wheaton High School a high-tech high school and expand partnerships

Approach 5—Charter school with business involvement
• CTE programs would be run by a charter school with business involvement Roundtable members also identified implementation strategies that could be considered with any of the approaches.  These strategies include:
1. Create a middle school connector or overview program that lead to CTE programs
2. Create more MCPS  Foundation courses to help develop CTE programs and magnet
3. Create introductory classes at home school for Grade 9 students that introduce students to
CTE programs
4. Make CTE facilities available for adult education

The report is located here:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

MC 7-11 Passes 21-1-2 in the Montgomery County House

On Friday, February 4th, the Montgomery County House Delegation voted on MC 7-11, the SMOB voting rights bill.

It passed with a near unanimous majority vote of 21-1-2, with only Delegate Gilchrist voting in the negative (again). Delegates Mizeur and Simmons were absent from the voting.

The bill will now move to the Montgomery County Senate Delegation.
The members of the Senate Delegation are:
  • - District 14: Karen Montgomery, Phone: 301-858-3625 / 410-841-3625
  • - District 15: Rob Garagiola, Phone: 301-858-3169 / 410-841-3169
  • - District 16: Brian Frosh, Phone: 301-858-3124 / 410-841-3124
  • - District 17: Jennie Forehand, Phone: 301-858-3134 / 410-841-3134
  • - District 18: Richard Madaleno, Phone: 301-858-3137 / 410-841-3137
  • - District 19: Roger Manno, Phone: 301-858-3151 / 410-841-3151
  • - District 20: Jamie Raskin, Phone: 301-858-3634 / 410-841-3634
  • - District 39: Nancy King, Phone: 301-858-3686 / 410-841-3686
The SMOB Council and I will be working on lobbying over the next several weeks.

Full text of the bill:

County Affairs Committee Vote (February 2nd):

House Delegation Vote (February 4th):

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

MC 7-11 Passes County Affairs Committee

Today the County Affairs Committee voted 5-1 on the SMOB voting rights bill, MC 7-11.

Delegates Frick, Cullison, Feldman, Kaiser, and Reznik voted in the affirmative while Delegate Gilchrist voted in the negative. Delegates Carr and Hixson were absent from the meeting.

The next step for this bill is the Montgomery County House Delegation Meeting on Friday, February 4th.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Maintenance of Effort Bill

There's currently a bill in the Senate that would make certain changes to the Maintenance of Effort law:

- Altering the date by which a county governing body must make a request to the State Board of Education for a waiver from the maintenance of effort requirement;
- requiring the State Board to consider specified factors when making a decision whether to grant a waiver;
- requiring the State Superintendent of Schools to make a preliminary assessment of waiver applications by a specified time
The full text of the bill on its First Reading is here.

It is important to remember that Maintenance of Effort is an important requirement that ensures adequate funding for education by maintaining a "floor" for local funding.

Friday, January 28, 2011

List of Potential Budget Cuts

Recently, the Governor released his budget, which included $37 million more in state aid to MCPS than originally anticipated. Most of this increase will help make up for the loss of federal stimulus funds this year.

Moreover, MCPS has been able to save $15 million this year that will go towards next year's budget. However, we're still facing a crisis at the local level. County Executive Ike Leggett said that his proposed budget won't meet the state's Maintenance of Effort requirement.

In order to meet MOE, we have to provide an increase of $82 million in funding to cover increased enrollment. However, we may have to cut $82 million from our budget if the county doesn't provide this funding. This would require eliminating step increases ($28 million), further delaying funding future retiree benefits ($6 million), and personnel/program reductions ($48 million).

As a result, Dr. Weast recently released a list of possible budget reductions. Below is the list - however, it's important to keep in mind that these reductions are listed randomly and are not final.

SMOB Application Deadline Extended!

Due to the snow days and homes without power, the deadline for students to submit their application for student member on the Board of Education (SMOB) has been extended until 4 PM on Monday, January 31st.

Candidates must bring their original application to the mandatory candidates' meeting at 4 PM on Monday, January 31st from 4-6 PM in the Cafeteria of Carver Educational Services Center (CESC) 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville.

Candidates should dress nicely as the MCPS photographer will take group pictures and the individual candidate portraits from 5:00-6:00 p.m in his studio at CESC.


Missing Olney Teen Found in Texas!

(WUSA) -- Montgomery County Police say they have found one of the teens from Olney who has been missing since January 12.

County police learned Nicholas (Cole) Balderson, 17, and Rachel Reilly, 16, might be in the San Antonio, Texas area and began coordinating with the San Antonio Police Department.

Thursday night, county detectives were contacted by San Antonio Police Department investigators who said they took Rachel Reilly into custody at approximately 8:15 p.m.

San Antonio Police had received information that the two teens may be staying at a homeless camp near a San Antonio truck stop, T and A Travel Center of America in San Antonio. They located a homeless camp to the rear of the truck stop, and police say when officers approached, two subjects matching the teens' descriptions fled on foot.

Police were able to stop and detain the girl and identified her as Rachel Reilly. Balderson was not apprehended.

Rachel Reilly was taken into custody by the San Antonio Police and is waiting to be reunited with family. Police say she appears to be uninjured and in good health.

Police say Balderson is still missing, and it is believed that he remains in the San Antonio area.

Anyone who may know the whereabouts of Cole Balderson is asked to call the Montgomery County Police Family Crimes Division at 240-773-5400 or the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ike Leggett - MCPS Will Pay Fine Instead of Meeting MOE

In the below article, County Executive Ike Leggett tells the Washington Examiner that the county will not fully fund the school system, and that MCPS will ultimately have to pay a penalty for being unable to meet  Maintenance of Effort for yet another consecutive year. 

Although other branches of county government are suffering enormous cuts as well, Maintenance of Effort is the law and must be met in order to ensure a world class quality of education for our students, especially because of enrollment increases.

For context, Maintenance of Effort is a state law that requires the County Council, MCPS' funding body, to spend as much money per student as it did the previous year. However, last year we were granted a Maintenance of Effort waiver from the state.

This means that this year's Maintenance of Effort requirement is at FY 2010's level of $10,664 per student. Unfortunately, this also means that we are unlikely to be granted a waiver like last year, leaving us with a penalty in the form of loss of state aid.

MontCo will pay state fine instead of increasing school spending
By: Brian Hughes

Montgomery County will not spend an extra $82 million on public schools next fiscal year, County Executive Ike Leggett told The Washington Examiner, citing the suburb's chronic funding shortfalls as the need to buck state requirements.

"It's just not practical for us to fill that request," Leggett said of Superintendent Jerry Weast's call for tens of millions of dollars more in county funding. "We'd either have to raise taxes or tap department budgets that have already been hit hard the last two or three years. I'm not going to do that."

Under state law, local jurisdictions are required to pay the same amount per student as the year before. But facing a $300 million shortfall -- on the heels of filling a $1 billion budget gap -- Leggett and County Council members say they would rather take a hit in state funding than raid department budgets.

The county would miss out on $33 million in state aid by not meeting the standard, ultimately saving $50 million at a minimum compared with Weast's proposal.

For years, county officials pumped millions of dollars more than required into the schools and built one of the nation's top-achieving public education systems. The county was granted a waiver for not meeting the so-called maintenance of effort this fiscal year, but officials say they will not receive a free pass again.

Leggett's announcement on Tuesday was met with disappointment from school board members, who have routinely battled with the council over funding that accounts for 57 percent of all taxpayer dollars spent in the county.

"With an increase in students and an increase in needs, not having an increase in dollars makes it very difficult to maintain the quality of education for our children," said School Board President Christopher Barclay.

Weast's $2.16 billion budget proposal included spending for an expected 3,340 more students next year and roughly 154 more teachers. It also recommended step increases -- a 3 percent annual raise, on average -- that would have cost $15 million.

By not meeting the Maryland standard, Leggett would be free to slash the schools' budget from prior levels. He will present his budget to the council in March.

Multiple council members Tuesday endorsed Leggett's decision.

"I agree with him," said Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large. "We cannot starve the rest of county government. Unfortunately, the school system is going to have to find substantial savings."

Charter Schools

Recently the Maryland State Board of Education reversed our decision to reject applications for two charter schools, Global Garden and Crossway Community. In part of its 17-page opinion, the state writes, "Members of a local board have a duty to evaluate public charter school applications based on the sufficiency of their contents, and not on the board member's own personal view of whether charter schools should exist."

We will have 90 days to reconsider these applications. To put this debate in context, there are currently no charter schools operating in Montgomery County, and some concerns that were cited in our original debate were discussions regarding the effects of charter schools on the budget.

According to MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig, county lawyers are still reviewing the state board's decision - however, it is possible that the MCPS Board of Education will only have to put their reasons for denial in writing, and not actually reconsider the applications.

Government HSA Gone?

The Government HSA, a graduation requirement for all students in Maryland, may be eliminated after the May 2011 administration under the new state budget.

Governor O'Malley proposes cutting $1.9 million from the Maryland State Department of Education budget, eliminating the Government HSA unless the legislature finds enough funding to restore it.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick says that she is comfortable with eliminating the Government HSA because Maryland is rewriting curriculum in all subjects to meet new Common Core standards.

In the end, the Government course will still be a graduation requirement.

But what are the greater implications of this decision on social studies and education as a whole?

Snow Dates for Budget Work Sessions

Hey guys,

We got a bit of snow today and school was cancelled - having fun? The outlook for tomorrow is more snow, so the Board of Education postponed its budget work sessions that were planned for today, Wednesday, Jan. 26, and tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 27.

Instead, we'll be holding an all-day budget work session on Tuesday, February 8, beginning at 10 AM. We'll approve a budget proposal on Monday, February 14th. The Board's budget recommendation must be submitted to the County Executive and the County Council on March 1.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Governor O'Malley's Budget

Hey guys,

So on January 21, 2011 Governor Martin O'Malley released his FY 2012 Recommended Operating Budget. But what does that mean, and how does it affect us?

If approved by the General Assembly, it would maintain K-12 state aid at FY 2011 levels, meaning an estimated increase in revenue for MCPS by $33.1 million compared with FY 2011, resulting in a total of $557.5 million in state aid. This is $41.4 million more than the total of $516.1 million in Dr. Weast's Recommended Operating Budget.

This doesn't affect Maintenance of Effort, which is based on local contribution. However, if the county fails to meet Maintenance of Effort we could face a penalty of up to $22.4 million.

It is important to remember that these figures are subject to change - however, they give a pretty good idea of what's going on right now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Montgomery College sued over illegal immigrant policy

Here's an interesting article from the Gazette - what do you think about this issue and the Dream Act proposed by Senator Madaleno?

Montgomery College sued over illegal immigrant policy
School is breaking law by granting in-county tuition, McDonough says
by Erin Cunningham | Staff Writer

Three Montgomery County residents filed a lawsuit against Montgomery College on Thursday seeking to overturn its practice of granting the lowest tuition rates to some illegal immigrants.

The lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, claims the college is breaking the law by allowing recent graduates of the county's public schools — regardless of their immigration status — to attend the college at the in-county tuition rate.

Those who oppose the policy say it is costing the state millions of dollars annually and preventing U.S. citizens from attending the school. Supporters, however, say the policy is lawful and helps make college affordable for the students.

At the same time, Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly and Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington are preparing to introduce legislation that would make undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition at Maryland's public colleges and universities if they meet certain criteria.

State law prohibits undocumented students from receiving a reduced rate, and such students also are ineligible for financial aid through the federal government.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and other elected leaders and college officials say they support the college's policy, which they believe is legal.

The college released a statement Thursday saying, "The college adheres to all laws and regulations regarding the information submitted for state aid."

The college has a long-standing practice of enrolling local high school students at in-county rates within three years of graduation. Montgomery College's board of trustees officially adopted the policy in late 2010, after McDonough spoke publicly about the situation.

Students who have not graduated from MCPS within three years must prove residency to determine their tuition rate.

The lawsuit was filed by Michael Lee Philips, of Rockville, and Patricia Fenati, of Damascus — both of whom ran for office on the Republican ticket in 2010 — and David Drake, a 69-year-old county resident.

"It's taxpayer waste, fraud and abuse," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which he describes as a bipartisan watchdog group that is representing the residents in their lawsuit against the college.

During a news conference Thursday in Annapolis, Fitton said he estimates the cost of providing lower tuition rates to illegal immigrants to be as much as $8 million. An audit from 2009 showed that illegal immigrants took 11,000 credit hours at the college that year.

"It's an unfair practice," said Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Dist. 7) of Middle River. "They are taking slots away from American citizens and legal immigrants."

McDonough has been vocal on immigration issues and said he plans to introduce 16 bills session related to immigration during the current legislative.

In November, McDonough called for the college to be cut off from state funding because of its tuition practices.

The college, which has 26,000 undergraduate students on three campuses, has a fiscal 2011 operating budget of $208 million, about $30.6 million of which comes from the state. The remainder comes from the county (47 percent) and student tuition and fees (38 percent).

Montgomery County Public Schools graduates pay in-county tuition of $107 per credit hour. In-state tuition is $219 per credit hour, and out-of-state residents pay $299.

For Yves Gomes, 18, of Silver Spring, paying the in-county rate is the only way he could afford to attend the college, where he enrolled in the fall, he said.

Gomes, who is an undocumented immigrant, was born in India but moved to the United States when he was 1 year old. He is a graduate of Montgomery County Public Schools, making him eligible for the lowest tuition rate.

About 30 percent of MCPS graduates go to Montgomery College in their first year after high school, and 60 percent enroll by the second year. About 10,000 students graduate from MCPS annually.

The school system does not track the immigration status of its students because it is prohibited by federal law.

Gomes was scheduled to be deported last year, but was granted a rare reprieve by the federal government. His parents were deported in 2008, and Gomes is using money from the sale of his family home to pay his tuition.

Gomes says he hopes to attend Montgomery College for two years before enrolling in the University of Maryland, College Park.

"I was hoping to get my undergrad in biology," he said Thursday. "I want to be a doctor one day."

Gomes says that he and other undocumented students have discussed proposals to raise their tuition.

"It's rough because that's our future," he said. "Basically, they are trying to make it hard for us."

Kim Propeack, the political director for Casa of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that supports Latinos and immigrants, says a few dozen undocumented students are attending the college at the lower tuition rate.

She questioned why McDonough, who lives in Baltimore County, would be concerned with an issue in Montgomery County.

Help Save Maryland, a group opposed to illegal immigration, estimates that as many as 300,000 illegal immigrants are living in Maryland, although the number living in Montgomery County is less clear because it is not tracked, said the group's director, Brad Botwin, who lives in Rockville.

He questioned why taxpayers were funding the lower tuition rates for undocumented immigrants who cannot work legally in the country.

Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring says helping make college affordable for all students will benefit the local economy.

"I see no problem with allowing children of immigrants to attend college and not make it cost prohibitive for them to participate in our economy," she said.

Strathmore & the Budget

There may be some confusion that MCPS is providing $50,000 in unnecessary funding to Strathmore.

However,  I would like to clarify that MCPS pays Strathmore for the 2nd and 5th grade concerts. Strathmore in turn pays the National Philharmonic for the performances.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

NYA and the Student Bill of Rights

Hey everyone,

On the behalf of former SMOB Tim Hwang, I'm here to provide a short summary of the National Youth Association, a new nation-wide student organization. Even while in college, Tim has been actively working to promote student advocacy across the country. More information is located here:

National Youth Association

You can read NYA's Student Bill of Rights below. Here's some helpful links:

Sign the Bill here:
Join the Facebook Event:

Stay Updated on Facebook:

"The National Youth Association is devoted to a society in which youth and students are able to grow to their fullest potential while acting as agents of social change in the world they will inherit. We recognize education as an opportunity to empower today’s youth; a catalyst in eradicating major conflicts within the United States. Not only is education an issue of social justice, but it is vital to the survival of our economy and our nation. During past years, however, lawmakers around the country have issued crushing funding cuts for public education programs. We at the National Youth Association firmly oppose misguided cuts to education funding and will fight on your behalf to uphold teacher quality and scholastic programs.

These cuts have swept the country both by magnitude and scale. During the last fiscal year, thirty-four states have cut funding for K-12 education while forty-three states have cut support for state universities. During the past two years, public schools in California have suffered $17 billion in cuts, Illinois has anticipated the loss of 17,000 teaching staff, and New York has proposed a $1 billion cut in education aid.

We, the undersigned, in order to secure a better future, expect an education that prepares us for the globalized economy, an education that expects excellence for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, or disability. We seek to protect student rights in the face of state deficits, and we petition policy makers to revert misguided cuts in public education that harm the development and competitiveness of today’s youth as problem solvers of the future by recognizing the following provisions:

1. Students shall possess the right to qualified, engaged, and passionate teachers. 
Teachers shall have a college degree with appropriate certification in the subject they teach and remain current in their academic fields.

2. The right to unfettered access to current textbooks, school supplies, and supplementary learning materials.
Schools shall make technology, workbooks, and supplements required for coursework available to students.

3. The right to security and privacy in their persons and their possessions on and around campus.
Students shall attend school without experiencing physical, emotional, or psychological bullying by peers, faculty, or the local community. Penalties against students, when they arise, shall observe due process and reasonably justify the offense.

4. The right to adequate facilities that encourage learning.
School buildings shall have comfortable temperature, sufficient light, and clean rooms, desks, and washrooms in order to provide good conditions for learning.

5. The right to challenging courses, enrichment activities, and after school activities (sports, clubs, etc.) that support academic needs, social needs, and personal development.
Schools shall provide courses and tutoring services, create opportunities that address students’ academic passion and curiosity, provide arts and athletics programs that enrich the soul and which develop a person holistically, and prepare them for global opportunities.

6. The right to physical education opportunities and nutritious school meals.
Schools shall provide physical education in curriculums and observe nutrition standards set by the Secretary of Agriculture in order to combat the social consequences and long-term health risks of childhood obesity.

7. The right to social, emotional, and post-high school counseling services.
Counseling opportunities enable students to explore their future potential, college readiness, and access to specialized program as well as find emotional support.

8. The right to a transparent, effective, and engaged administration that enforces school policies impartially and interacts with an elected student government.
Administrators shall have open mind and open door policies to address student concerns honestly, provide rationale for school decisions, support family and community involvement, and place student interests at the forefront of decision making.

9. The right to transportation to and from secondary schools.
In regions with inadequate public transportation, local and magnet secondary schools shall ensure safe and speedy transportation routes for all students.

10. The right to accessible early childhood education, free public secondary education, and reasonable costs to post-secondary education (college tuition, etc.)
Early education reduces juvenile crime and dropout rates, and secondary and post-secondary educations are necessary in most fields to develop competitive individuals in the global marketplace.

11. The right to an appropriate student-teacher ratio.
This ratio should be based on student age, course content, and student needs.

12. The right to freely express ideas and beliefs.
Schools shall respect, advocate, and protect student rights of expression and assembly to the extent that the law allows.

13. The right to fair and standards-based grading systems.
Schools shall enact fair, standards-based grading policies that are a fair representation of a student’s mastery of a subject."