Montgomery Co. schools make ‘extraordinarily difficult’ budget cuts

The Montgomery County Board of Education adopted a $3.32 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2025 on Tuesday.

The acceptance of the budget left the school system with a $30 million deficit. The board voted Tuesday on several cuts in response to that deficit.

Montgomery County School Board President Karla Silvestre called for the vote, and parents angry over plans to eliminate the Montgomery Virtual Academy and increase class sizes shouted out, prompting pleas from Silvestre to restore order and continue with the meeting.

“I hope everybody knows that we would love to fund everything,” Montgomery County School Board member Rebecca Smondrowski told parents before voting.

Smondrowski said she shared parents’ concerns about cutting the virtual academy that allows 800 students to learn remotely. “It’s going to kill me to raise my hand (to vote),” Smondrowski said, to which someone responded from the crowd: “Don’t raise it! Stand up for us!”

Before the vote, board member Shebra Evans said there had been missteps in the budget process.

“I’m not happy with how we have to do this. It does not make me feel good,” Evans said.

‘No easy reductions to take’

According to a news release from the school system, “next year’s budget maintains essential services while including investments in key areas,” such as special education, mental health, language arts, the Community Schools program and the continuation of the two-year negotiated salary agreements between MCPS and its employee associations.

The approved budget’s reductions of over $30 million, according to a release, were realized through a variety of measures:

  • Increasing class size guidelines by one student in K-12 classes and a reduction of 122.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, expected to be realized through retirements and other vacancies.
  • Reduction of 0.4 FTE staff development teachers in middle and high schools.
  • Eliminating 20 central services positions from all employee groups.
  • Eliminating the Montgomery Virtual Academy.
  • Delaying the expansion of the pre-kindergarten program until, at least, the 2025-2026 school year.

“This budget does not include everything we would like, but what it does include is critically important,” Silvestre said.

The budget includes $147 million more than last year’s, an increase of 4.6% — but it also reflects a $30 million reduction for a same-services budget from the previous year.

“There are no easy reductions to take,” MCPS Interim Superintendent Monique Felder said. “We recognize that every reduction to the budget has a significant impact.”

‘An extraordinarily difficult budget year’

The 2025 operating budget was designed to maintain the same level of services and operations as the current school year, without introducing new initiatives. It also included moving resources and services from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant, which is made up of discontinued federal emergency funding, to the general operating budget.

“Without question, this has been an extraordinarily difficult budget year for all of us, with the loss of the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief, also known as ESER funding, and increased inflation costs. We requested a funding level for an operating budget that we believe is essential to support the teaching and learning needs of our students in all 211 schools,” Felder said.

Initially, the board said current teachers could face layoffs, but updated retirement and resignation figures showed that could be avoided.

“I am relieved that it appears the MCPS will not have to do extensive staff furloughs or layoffs,” Council member Will Jawando said in a statement Tuesday. ”However, I am deeply concerned that the involuntary transfer of teachers to vacant positions, elimination of the virtual academy, and cuts in programming will result in fewer student supports, fewer programs, and delayed implementation of early childhood education programs.”

“I believe we should have done more to support our students and educators during these challenging times,” he added.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

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