Our Children Can’t Wait; Now is the Time to Reinvest in Education
Today, the Montgomery County Board of Education submitted its Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget to County Executive Isiah Leggett and the County Council. The budget serves as a reflection of our unwavering commitment to reinvest in our students so that we can ensure that every student is well prepared for the future.
Over the last eight years, Montgomery County Public Schools has seen a rapid expansion in the number of students enrolled but a contraction of the essential resources to serve them. Since 2009, enrollment has skyrocketed by 12 percent, making us the 17th largest school system in the nation. And this trend will continue. We project an additional 2,500 students to enroll next year. Yet, our staffing has not kept pace. Cuts to funding have only allowed us to increase staff by just 3 percent.
This mismatched growth is particularly concerning given the increasing needs of our students. Nearly 35 percent of our student body is eligible for free and reduced-price meals (FARMS), an increase of 16,407 students since 2009. Moreover, we have seen a 32 percent increase in students enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) during this same period.
In spite of these unprecedented changes, local funding for our schools has decreased—driven in no small part by the Great Recession in 2008. As a result, the county government has required MCPS to do more with less for nearly a decade. The result: the per-student spending by the county has decreased by $1,200 since 2009. MCPS has received increases in state aid to somewhat offset the loss of county investment. But at a time when we need to be investing more to meet the growing needs of our students, MCPS has been treading water.
We can no longer disinvest in our students and our schools. Any further cuts threaten to destabilize our schools, which will put the future of our students, county, and economy at risk. We must provide our students with access to the opportunities and resources they need to succeed.
Our requested operating budget does just this. After the previous years of cuts, we are requesting $2.5 billion, a $180.2 million increase from Fiscal Year 2016, to help strengthen the system’s foundation; reduce class sizes; expand efforts to address disparities in educational outcomes for African American, Latino, and other historically disadvantaged student groups; and enhance college and career readiness programs for all students.
The budget targets investments to—
- Keep pace with the unprecedented growth and changing needs of our student population;
- Close the achievement gap with a focus on literacy and math skills;
- Reduce class sizes to ensure teachers can better support each student;
- Build the cultural proficiency of staff;
- Strengthen partnerships with the community and families to support students; and
- Ensure every student is prepared for college and career.
It is through these investments that we will move beyond the status quo and provide a level playing field for each of our students to succeed, regardless of racial background or socio-economic status.
During testimony before the Board of Education earlier this year, Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations President Frances Frost stated, “Although the administration of policies and of the schools is the professional duty of the Board of Education and MCPS, the results, failures, and successes affect us all.” She is right. The success of MCPS reverberates in every part of our community, including local businesses.
“One of our greatest challenges in the information technology business is finding high-quality human resources,” noted Brian A. Vaughn, President and CEO of ShipShape IT. “For having had the pleasure of finding capable human resources through the Montgomery County Public Schools, I am extremely thankful. It’s a diverse and highly educated group of students, which indeed helps address the dearth of talent in this market.”
Fitzgerald Auto Malls Vice President Harold Redden agrees. “We depend on the students who graduate from MCPS to be our next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders. If we want business to thrive in this county in the years to come, we must invest in our schools today.”
From parents to students to business leaders, we continue to hear from hundreds of community members who believe that now is the time to reinvest in our students and schools. We know that the county executive and County Council have been supportive of our schools over the years. Now, we need them to join us and reverse the years of minimum funding increases. It’s time to stop disinvesting in our schools.
Now is the time to make your voice heard. Over the next several weeks, we are asking for your help to ensure that the County Council knows that fully funding our budget is critically important to the future of this county. Please write to the county executive and County Council, sign up to testify, and contact your friends and neighbors to get involved today. Together, let’s make our voices heard. Visit http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/budget17 for details about the requested budget and resources to help you advocate.
Michael A. Durso
President, Montgomery County Board of Education