MCPS Proposed Budget 2021
Issue: In FY2021 several critical factors will affect the MCPS operating budget, including the number of students returning to school once Covid restrictions are lifted and what state funding will be available [see Funding: State below].
Background: Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith has proposed $2.7 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2022. The proposed budget, which will go through a lengthy review process by both the school board and Montgomery County Council, is about $42.6 million (1.5%) less than the current budget.
- The School Board will hold its first hearing on the budget on January 11.
- Governor Hogan will released his proposed budget on January 20.
- A short MCPS briefing on the budget is here.
- The full budget can be seen on the MCPS website
- For an analysis of funding for schools by district see this report.
information updated 01/03/2021
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.
During its 2020 session the Maryland legislature passed bills that approved the commission’s recommendations and also provided the additional funds for school construction. The governor vetoed these bills after the legislature adjourned.
- 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.
- Department of Legislative Services (DLS) post-session Summary of Major Issues report, including a detailed analysis of the Kirwan Report legislation [aka the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future], starting on page 205 [L-1].
- See also the DLS Fiscal and Policy Note on the estimated costs.
information added 12/07/2020
MCPS Boundary Study
Issue: How to balance school capacity and also improve diversity in the schools.
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 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”] has become 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.
Actions: The BoE has released the MCPS Interactive Boundary Explorer, an online interactive tool “to give the MCPS community an opportunity to interact with the data being analyzed as part of the District-wide Boundary Analysis, and add their voice to the process. [Using this tool], you can get context about this analysis, explore the data yourself using the interactive tool, and add your voice to the process using the survey.” The interactive tool is still accessible, although the period for feedback via survey will close by the end of 2020.
According to the BoE, there will then be multiple regional open meetings across the county; and targeted outreach/ engagement with key stakeholders after people have had a chance to use the interactive tool.
Latest Update: Phase II of the boundary study, currently underway, is centered around engaging as many county residents and stakeholders as possible in the use of this interactive tool and gaining input and feedback, focused on key questions such as “How well do you think utilization, diversity and proximity are balanced between your school and its nearby schools? Are there geographic areas of the county where you see significant challenges with school boundaries? If so, where and what kinds of challenges?”
Citing challenges caused by COVID-19, the consultants leading the countywide review of public school boundaries have said that the release of the project’s final report will be delayed until the spring 2021. The consultants said the final report will include four “simulations” that will use its data to prioritize:
- Improving capacity within school clusters
- Improving capacity concerns between neighboring schools
- Improving capacity concerns while increasing diversity
- Improving capacity concerns while reducing distances students walk to school.
information added 12/07/2020
School Resource Officers
Issue: There is a question before the Council as to whether the county should continue the School Resource Officer [SRO] program which places police officers in public schools.
- 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