Schools and MCPS

Spring 2023 Update. (See More Information below for details)

1) Hate crimes in schools have increased dramatically 2) 2023-24 MCPS operating budget was approved by the Council along with a property tax increase (4.7%), but which was smaller than that proposed by the County Executive (10%), to the condemnation of the MC Education Association 3) MCPS budget transparency was debated 4) The Maryland General Assembly appropriated $900M for the Blueprint for the coming fiscal year. 5) WJ/Woodward boundary study will begin in Fall 2023 6) A Recordation Tax increase will impact MCPS school construction (see details) 7) Math achievement levels of County Middle Schoolers have fallen 8) There has been a measurable increase in county students living in poverty.

More Information

Kensington Parkwood Elementary School

Hate Crimes

The Montgomery County school district reports an average of one hate bias or racist incident per day, according to data cited by Superintendent Monifa McKnight day—a rate three times higher than previous years, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Community advocates say the actual rate is likely much higher. McKnight addressed the recent rise of racist, antisemiticanti-LGBTQ+ and other hate bias incidents within Montgomery County Public Schools at a public forum held at Rockville High School. “Let me be clear: these mean and unacceptable actions have no place in MCPS,” she said.  McKnight also announced new measures being taken to combat these incidents. These included:

  • Tightly coordinating the district’s response to incidents of hate and bias
  • Strictly scrutinizing the system’s decisions for evidence of equity
  • Professional development on anti-racist leadership
  • Ongoing training for all employees on responding to hate and bias incidents.
  • Establishing a Multicultural Advisory Group to monitor the district’s anti-racist action plan.
  • Strengthening and expanding student curriculum to ensure historical accuracy and cultural competency.
  • Creating in-school opportunities like assemblies and student advisory boards to share information.
  • Revising fourth and fifth grade curriculums to align with social justice standards.

MCPS Operating Budget 2023-2024

2023 Updates:

May 2023. Montgomery County’s Board of Education  unanimously approved next year’s schools operating budget at $3.2 billion—an increase of 10% or $296 million over this year.  The figure is $272 million above the minimum amount required by the state’s “maintenance of effort” law, according to a news release from Montgomery County Public Schools. The budget will add supervisors, instructional staff and coaches to “increase math and literacy support, oversight and progress monitoring for schools, and increased professional development opportunities for staff,” according to MCPS’ release. The budget also includes salary increases for school personnel and adds security assistants, according to the MCPS. See superintendent’s executive summary. The Montgomery County Education Association has accused the Council of voting to “…starve our school system” by reducing the County Executive’s proposed property tax increase, which is intended to support MCPS schools, from 10% to 4.7%. On the other hand, MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight and Board of Education President Karla Silvestre have sent a letter to the county council thanking them for their “ongoing support of Montgomery County Public Schools’ students, families and staff.”  They write, “Our students, families and staff are fortunate to benefit from your leadership and prioritization of our children.”

January 2023. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. Monifa B. McKnight has recommended a $3.15 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2024. It continues the district’s focus on preparing all students to thrive in their futures. The funding provides a high-quality education for growing student enrollment, for continuing recovery from lost learning time due to the pandemic, for new research-based innovative approaches for teaching and learning, for competitive salaries for staff, and for increased costs of goods and services.  See response by MCEA (“Budget not adequate”) in article following.

Following two years of student enrollment decline, the MCPS unofficial enrollment for Sept. 30, 2022, will reflect an increase of more than 2,000 students attending MCPS, totaling 160,554. MCPS projects another increase of nearly 2,000 students for the 2023-2024 school year. This growth will require an extra 238 full-time positions costing $14.9 million.

Investment Highlights from the Recommended FY 2024 Operating Budget.

  • Establish Two Additional Innovative Calendar Schools ($2.5 million)
  • Add Seats in PreK and Early Childhood Education ($2.5 million)
  • Increase Dual-Language Programs in Three Schools ($591,000)
  • Expand College Tracks Advisory Program to 5 more schools ($1.8 million)
  • Remove All Costs for AP and IB Exams ($3.4 million)
  • Introduce School Bus Tracking Software ($1.5 million)
  • Competitive Salaries to Drive Recruitment and Retention of 24,000 Employees ($119.2 million)
  • Increase partnerships with hospitals, daycares and outreach centers to provide more learning opportunities for the county’s youngest children. ($100,000)

Timeline. The Montgomery County Board of Education will hold public hearings on the budget on Wednesday, Jan. 11, and Tuesday, Jan. 17. The Board also will hold three budget work sessions on Thursday, Jan. 12, Wednesday, Jan. 18, and Tuesday, Jan. 24, before tentatively approving an operating budget on Feb. 7, 2023.

After the Board of Education approves an operating budget for FY 2024, it will be sent to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council for consideration. The County Council will approve its final FY 2024 Operating Budget on May 25, 2023.

It is essential to keep in mind that this budget represents a recommendation offered during a snapshot in time. Given the uncertainties in final revenue from the county and state government, adjustments will likely be made before the Board of Education adopts a final FY 2024 Operating Budget on June 6, 2023.

Full budget website here.

Press announcement here.

Updated January 16, 2023

Montgomery County Education Association Says Budget is Not Adequate

In a press release, the Montgomery County Education Association applauded Superintendent McKnight’s proposals to expand universal pre-K, dual-language immersion programs, and to waive fees for AP and IB tests, MCEA proposes to go further, urging MCPS to also offer free meals to all students and eliminate fees for field trips and other student activities. With respect to salaries, the Association point out that “…MCPS educator salaries have fallen behind wages in other systems in Maryland, but our county has the highest cost of living in the state. And per pupil spending when adjusted for inflation has yet to meet the amount spent per student in 2009.

While the cost of living in Montgomery County has risen more than 60% since 2002, teacher salaries have fallen by 15-17% when adjusted for inflation.”

Updated January 16, 2023

2022 Updates:

  • Excerpt from the Superintendent’s recommended budget: The Recommended FY 2023 Operating Budget totals $2,930,817,666. This budget recommendation is an increase of $148,719,843 (5.3 percent increase compared to FY2022).
  • The most detailed information (400+ pages) is on the MCPS budget homepage:
  • A brief version is here.
  • And a one pager is here.

2021 Updates

September 2021: MCPS has requested that the Council approve categorical transfers of $67.7 million for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) FY21 operating budget and $1.7 million for FY21 grant funds, as requested by the Board of Education. The transfers are needed because of increased expenditures in the new continuity of learning approach, extensive summer instruction, additional student instruction and enrichment in non-traditional school hours, and professional development and technology initiatives for remote learning. In addition, MCPS received approximately $422.0 million in relief funding related to the pandemic.

More Information:

information updated 10/04/2021

Impact of Recordation Tax Increase on School Construction

In a tight 7-4 vote on May 9, Montgomery County Council passed a controversial recordation tax rate increase that will fund capital projects across the county—one-third of it going toward school renovation projects. The following link is to a breakdown of each major ongoing Montgomery County Public School construction project included in the school district’s current six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget, derived from school board records and ranked beginning with the least expensive.

MCPS Budget transparency

In response to criticisms, including a 2023 op-ed piece by Council President Evan Glass, that there is not enough transparency in the operations of the MCPS, especially with regard to the management of its $3B+ annual budget, which is approximately one half the County’s total budget, the Board of Education announced that it welcomes accountability and that transparency is not an issue.  Nevertheless, Glass called upon the members of County’s state delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to “…change the state law and allow more transparency for policymakers and residents to see how their tax dollars are being spent. County officials and taxpayers deserve to see how funds are being allocated. We need our leaders in Annapolis to work with county governments and school systems across the state to strengthen our ability to provide oversight and accountability. Providing us the authority to further open the school system’s fiscal books would be a good place to start.”

Funding: State

Issue:  How to improve the Maryland school system and how much will it cost?

Background.  In 2016 the Maryland Legislature established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education [aka the Kirwan Commission] to propose recommendations that would significantly improve the Maryland school system and make it one of the best in the world. The commission made a number of recommendations to achieve these goals, including:

  • Full day education for 3-year-olds from low-income households
  • Universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds
  • Better college and career readiness training
  • Higher salaries for teachers
  • Better teacher training
  • More resources for at-risk students
  • Transparent governance and accountability
  • More money for schools where many students live in poverty

These proposals are estimated to eventually cost $4 billion. They are sometimes referred to the “Blueprint for the Future”, and were incorporated into legislation in the 2020 session.

A companion measure introduced in the 2020 legislative session provided additional funds for school construction in the state; it included $400M for construction in Montgomery County. This measure was linked to the Kirwan recommendations and its passage was contingent on the passage of those recommendations.

2023 Spring Update. The General Assembly appropriated $900M for the 2023-2024 fiscal year for the Blueprint.

2023 Winter Updates: The Blueprint for Maryland’s [Educational] Future was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021 to transform public education in the state into a world-class education system.  Implementation is being directed by the Accountability and Implementation Board, chaired by Ike Leggett, former Montgomery County Executive. According to the program’s website, the Blueprint will increase education funding by $3.8 billion each year over the next 10 years,

The Board has determine that a 10-year plan requires a phased approach. The Initial Blueprint Comprehensive Plan submitted to the Governor and General Assembly on December 1, 2022 contains the initial phases. AIB will begin work in January 2023 on refining the outcome measures identified in the initial plan and identifying metrics and milestones that will be used to assess implementation progress and whether implementation is successful. These measures and milestones will be included in the Updated Blueprint Comprehensive Plan to be adopted by AIB by August 1, 2023.

In accordance with the plan, local education agencies and State entities charged with implementing the Blueprint have begun developing their initial implementation plans. The statutory submission date for these plans is March 15, 2023. The implementation plans will also be phased. Phase one will cover the first five years of implementation over two plan submissions with the initial plans covering fiscal 2022 through 2024, and updated plans to be submitted in March 2024 covering fiscal 2025 through 2027. The second five-year period, from fiscal 2028 through 2032, will be covered in phase two plans, which will be submitted to AIB for approval in spring 2027.

Updates 2022: 

  • According to Maryland Matters, a draft plan to implement Maryland’s multi-billion education reform plan that lawmakers approved last year is scheduled for release this fall 2022. The comprehensive reforms focus on five subject areas, or pillars: expanding early childhood education, creating a diverse workforce with high-quality teachers, improving college and career readiness, providing additional resources for some students and maintaining accountability.
  • During its 2021 session that concluded in April, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Kirwan commission recommendations over the governor’s previous veto in 2020.

More Information:

Updated September 29, 2022

Walter Johnson and Woodward High Schools

2023 Spring Update. In March 2023 the superintendent released the scope recommendation for the current boundary study.  MCPS officials will be focusing on Bethesda Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Walter Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Northwood, Wheaton and Walt Whitman high schools. The study also includes the 14 middle schools associated with the high schools, including North Bethesda. No elementary schools are included in the scope recommendation.

Timeline for Boundary Study:

  • Spring 2023—Request for Proposal for a consultant is released.
  • Summer 2023—BoE approves consultant.
  • Fall 2023—MCPS staff and consultant prepare the community engagement process and provide stakeholders with meeting information.
  • Early 2024 thru Fall 2024—Boundary Study process (community meetings, option development, feedback)
  • Early 2025—Boundary Study report is released.
  • Winter 2025 (February) —Superintendent’s recommendation on the boundary study is released.
  • Winter 2025 (February-March)—Board of Education work session, public hearing, and action on the superintendent’s recommendation on the boundary study.

2023 Winter Update, by Emily Beckman, a Parkwood Parent. Walter Johnson High School, which is the public school for Parkwood students, has been significantly overcrowded for several years,. The Board of Education plan is to reopen Woodward High School and assign some students to that school. A November 10, 2022, BoE meeting included a presentation by MCPS staff to the Board on upcoming construction projects.  At this meeting, MCPS facilities planning staff presented two possible timelines for accomplishing the Boundary Study to accompany the re-opening of Woodward High School.  A Boundary Study is the process by which MCPS and the Board of Education decide how a school’s seats will be filled.  

The “Scope Recommendation” is the first step in the Boundary Study process.  It is a recommendation for which areas will be included in the conversation regarding populating Woodward High School as well as the new expanded capacity at Northwood High School.  We know that this “Scope Recommendation” will include the WJ cluster and all of the Down County Consortium clusters (Northwood, Einstein, Wheaton, Kennedy, Blair).  Whether any other areas will be included and whether elementary and middle school boundaries will also be “in play” will be determined by the Scope that is ultimately approved by the Board of Education.  The Superintendent’s Scope Recommendation will be our first glimpse of the proposed scope of this boundary study.  And it could come soon.  Or it could come in a year. 

MCPS’s Previous Boundary Study–Pre-Covid

Current Walter Johnson Cluster Boundary (from MCPS Interactive Boundary Explorer)

Issue:  How to balance school capacity and also improve diversity in the schools. Covid placed this issue on hold for the past several years. The information here will be updated if and when the BoE takes up the general issue of school boundaries again. However, note that a boundary study will be required as part of the planning for Woodward High School, which is intended by the BoE to relieve overcrowding at Walter Johnson. See previous story.

Background. The Board of Education [BoE] states that “The overcapacity of many schools, paired with a continued focus on equity and excellence, [has] prompted the Board of Education, pre-Covid, to initiate an assessment of current school boundaries to ensure that MCPS can continue to provide high-quality facilities that support the educational programming needed to reinforce its core values of Learning, Relationships, Respect, Excellence and Equity .”

This assessment [aka “the boundary study”] became a polarizing issue for many in the county.  T­hose opposed are especially concerned that their children will be bussed out of their neighborhood school districts and assigned to schools that they regard as less desirable. Some citizens who do not have children in the school system are opposed to the study because they believe that changes in boundaries could cause a drop in property values. This opposition has resulted in push-back from those who think more integration is a good thing both for the county and for students.

Latest Update: 

  • MCPS releases the nearly 200-page final report publicly. The report says MCPS could make more progress toward its ideals for school enrollment if it considered redistricting up to 10% of students throughout the county. As expected, it does not recommend any specific boundary changes, but provides insight and guidance for evaluating different factors. It “provides a framework for understanding what may be possible through a comprehensive districtwide boundary plan,” the report says. In interviews following the report’s release, some school board members say there are no plans to jump into comprehensive redistricting any time soon.
  • School board members have said no immediate, large-scale changes are planned, but the analysis will be used to guide community-level boundary studies as they emerge.Some members have also said the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on districtwide enrollment, which has dipped, will also need to be considered as part of the next steps.

More Information:

information added 05/18/2021

Achievement Levels of County Middle School Students Falling in Math

Academic achievement data reported to the state by Montgomery County Public Schools shows that middle school math proficiency dropped by nearly half since the last pre-pandemic state report.  The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) released its first statewide school report card since the COVID-19 pandemic. The data reveals that Montgomery County students failed to meet academic achievement targets at all school levels—but most severely in math.

According to a report by Adam Pugnacco, a literacy pilot at East Silver Spring Elementary School showed strong results in improving reading by second, third and fourth graders at a school where a majority of students are Black or brown and receive free and reduced price meals.  MCPS announced that it was expanding the pilot to more schools, but it ended the program a year later and its future is uncertain.  This was unfortunate because it showed real potential to make progress on one of the school system’s toughest challenges – closing the achievement gap.

Council Member Natali Fani-González, whose district includes Wheaton, Glenmont and Aspen Hill, has written MCPS demanding answers.  In her letter of yesterday, she describes “shameful results” on reading in several schools in her district and asks what MCPS is doing about it.  She also asks for data on the pilot in schools other than East Silver Spring and writes, “…We must be willing to think outside the box and try new strategies based on the latest research.”

One-half of Maryland Public School Students are Poor

Child poverty in Maryland is deeper and more widespread than previously calculated. As reported in the County’s B-CC Regional Services Office newsletter, February 22, 2023, a new state government analysis found that more than half of public school students now qualify for a range of anti-poverty programs. Most of them live in the suburbs.

The analysis of child poverty identified some 110,000 previously uncounted public school students who qualify for a range of anti-poverty programs. Roughly half of them live in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The analysis identified 70 percent more low-income students (27,648) in Montgomery County from families poor enough to receive government-subsidized meals but not enrolled in the benefit.

The larger number of poor students makes Maryland’s landmark education program, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, dramatically more expensive — an estimated $1.6 billion more over the next five years — just as it was set to launch. More in the Washington Post.

School Security

Issue: How to ensure safety in the schools. At the start of the 2021-2022 school the County Executive decided to eliminate the School Resource Officer [SRO] program, which placed police officers in county schools.  However, violent incidents in schools have increased recently, leading to a new approach agreed to by MCPS and the Police Department. The question is whether this will be adequate.

Latest Update:

  • May 2022:School Safety.  Because of a recent increase in violence in the schools, MCPS and the County’s Police Department have signed an agreement that brings back police officers into schools in a limited form — they will not be patrolling hallways and will only have a designated space near the front office or administrative areas. The officers, known as community engagement officers, will not be in those spaces for long periods, instead checking in at high schools and other schools in each cluster.
  • January, 2022. Because of a shooting at Magruder High School, the MC Chief of Police said that he and the Interim Superintendent of the MCPS are reviewing the community engagement program to determine if it needs to be adjusted to ensure that the MC schools are safe. See this Bethesda Beat interview with the Chief.
  • August 25, 2021, from the Washington Post:  After a vigorous, years-long debate over racial equity and student safety in Maryland’s largest school system, the County Executive has decided to eliminate the School Resource Officer [SRO] program, which placed police officers in county schools.  Instead, groups of police called “community engagement officers” will be patrolling the areas around schools.  The officers may be told by the department’s central dispatch system to respond to incidents on campus when necessary, but they will not be in direct communication with school officials.
  • County Public Schools interim superintendent Monifa McKnight said Wednesday that the county plans to use part of the $112 million that it received from the American Rescue Plan to hire 50 new social workers who could be deployed to schools as early as this fall. The proposal is currently pending approval by the state, she said.
  • Councilmember Rice, long an advocate of SROs, has announced his thinking has “evolved” and has said “said he no longer thinks police should be in schools but still believes that the county’s police department is one of the best in the country. He doesn’t agree with “defund the police,” he said, but thinks officers need to be much more severely disciplined for misconduct.
  • 03-05-2021: Councilmember Navarro has proposed an amendment intended as a compromise between the competing council bills.
  • 02-02-2021: County lawmakers have introduced competing measures on this issue; so have state legislatures. The county and state proposals also differ from each other. See this article in the Bethesda Beat
  • Some students have also testified before the County about SROs.
  • 01-13-2021: After receiving a report from MCPS Superintendent Smith regarding the SRO program, the school board decided to seek more information and delayed a decision on the program until May 2021. See this article from Bethesda Beat

updated 05/23/2022

MCPS Sustainability Plan

In September 2022, the Montgomery County school board voted unanimously to adopt an “aggressive” sustainability policy. MCPS is joining the county in its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in five years and 100% by 2035 compared to 2005 levels, according to the policy. See details in the Bethesda Beat.

Updated September 29, 2022

MCPS Staffing

As reported in the Bethesda Beat, according to MCPS officials, 99% percent of teaching vacancies were filled by the start of the school year 2022-2023. That was a major change from early August when MCPS leaders were saying the district was planning to turn to substitutes, including retirees, to fill hundreds of positions that remained unfilled.   

MCPS is also making progress on recruiting and hiring a more diverse teaching staff: There were nearly 1,400 diverse teacher candidates who applied during the 2021-2022 school year and 442 were hired.

Also of note, among school districts statewide, MCPS has the largest number of teachers – at 621– who have active National Board Certifications, with 650 others who are currently working on the rigorous process to achieve certification. 

Updated October 6, 2022