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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.