Montgomery Co. Council passes $7 billion budget, criticizes proposed school cuts

The Montgomery County Council has approved a $7.1 billion budget that included funding on the same day teachers urged the school board to avoid cutting up to 300 positions.

According to a statement from the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents teachers and school staff, the Montgomery County Board of Education called for a reduction in force.

The MCEA statement said the group “vigorously rejects this ill-conceived plan” and said that the membership was “shocked to learn of MCPS’ plan for layoffs and the cancellation of new contracts.”

Montgomery County Council President Andrew Friedson noted that the council approved funding 99.2% of the school system’s budget request.

Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass blasted the school board during the council voting session Thursday, saying that the council had been deliberating on budget plans for months.

Referring to the school board, which started its Thursday meeting with a closed-door session, Glass complained about the timing of the move.

“And they’re giving us information now of their decision? Shame on them. Blindsiding us, blindsiding our educators, blindsiding the entire community,” Glass said.

Councilmember Kristin Mink — who, along with Councilmember Will Jawando, abstained from voting on the school board budget — repeated her own concerns that the council needed to increase funding to schools.

Mink said it was clear from earlier deliberations that the school planned some belt-tightening measures.

“I know there are concerns out there about whether or not — is this really real, or is this crying wolf,” Mink said. She added that the cuts could damage the school system’s hiring efforts “for years and years to come.”

“No teachers are going to come to Montgomery County if they know that your contract could be broken” or that new hires could see job offers rescinded, Mink concluded.

‘More support, not less’

Jawando, who heads the council’s Education and Culture Committee, said 143 teachers could be fired, while 177 teachers offered contracts could see them rescinded.

“If you take those numbers together, that’s 320 teachers,” Jawando said. “The bottom line is that a significant number of teachers will be gone.”

Referring to the cuts, Jawando said we “can’t let this happen.”

“One thing I’m clear on is our students need more, not less,” he said. “Our teachers need more support, not less.”

During the school board meeting on Thursday, Jennifer Martin, current president of MCEA, urged the board to meet with them to discuss alternatives to layoffs and cancelled contracts, prompting dozens of MCEA members in the audience to stand and applaud.

“To our staff, I want to say, we do not make these decisions easily and they are not our first choice,” school board president Karla Silvestre said at the Thursday meeting.

‘Difficult decisions that may be necessary’

On Friday, after WTOP asked for comment from a member of the school board, Liliana Lopez, Communications Director for the Board of Education, included a link to a “community message” from Interim Superintendent Monique Felder and Board President Karla Silvestre.

“We have previously shared with County Council members, our employee bargaining unit associations and our community partners the difficult decisions that may be necessary to address the significant financial constraints our county is facing,” the joint statement said.

“Lately, there has been public discussion about $13.7 million in contractual services that were not itemized in a list given to County Council and the employee bargaining unit associations’ leadership. The list was intended to share information about major contracts and present examples of major contracts by budget category.”

MCPS didn’t include specific information on the number of positions that could be affected by the ongoing budget concerns.

The school board meets on July 11 to approve its budget.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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