Montgomery County Council votes to fully fund schools

WASHINGTON — The Montgomery County Council’s Education committee has voted 3-0 to fully fund the Montgomery County School system’s budget request for fiscal year 2015.

The vote by the committee comes just days before the full council takes a tentative vote on the entire county budget for fiscal year 2015 and has been supported by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. A final vote on the county’s budget for fiscal year 2015 is set for May 22 and the budget would take effect by July 1.

At a news conference Monday morning, Council President Craig Rice told reporters “It was County Executive Leggett who actually said that MCPS is the crown jewel of Montgomery County. Well if it’s the crown jewel, then we’ve got to treat it like that.”

Rice and fellow education committee member Phil Andrews insist the funding of the school’s 2.3 billion dollar budget request is fiscally responsible because it avoids increasing the county’s obligation to school funding under a state-mandated formula called the “maintenance of effort”. Under that formula, the school system is bound to spend at a given level and may not go below that spending level without a state-granted waiver.

Instead of raising the budget under the MOE, the county and the Montgomery County school system have drawn on reserves in the MCPS budget in order to fund the requested operating budget. But that presents a challenge in the next fiscal year.

County Executive Leggett conceded that point saying, “We are committed to making certain that we do the right thing not only for this year, but for future years. We’re going to make this work because our kids and our school system needs this kind of funding.”

The following is a list of what’s included in the operating budget for fiscal year 2015/ Items are from an MCPS fact sheet on the budget:

  • Nearly $21 million for 276 new teaching and staff positions that will serve an additional 2,721 students and increases in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Special Education services
  • $140,000 to staff two more prekindergarten classes for families in need
  • $3 million for new tablets and devices to help increase technology in the classroom and support the administration of new state assessments
  • $800,000 for the “Career Lattice” program that will encourage up to 250 highly effective, veteran teachers to move to or stay in high-needs schools
  • About $1 million to put more math and reading teachers in eight high schools where students struggle the most in these core areas
  • More than $1.4 million to improve ESOL services in 21 middle schools that are seeing significant growth in the number of ESOL students
  • About $1.2 million to begin a multiyear effort to improve the student support model. These funds will add 5.5 elementary school counselors, 5 school psychologists, and 6 pupil personnel workers, with more positions to be added in future years to lower caseloads
  • More than $2 million to give teacher leaders more time to coach and collaborate

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