Reinvest in Our Students to Fund Our Future
By Michael Durso and Larry Bowers
In a recent visit to JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr. praised our school district, noting, “I think there is a strong commitment on the part of the Board of Education and the Superintendent and his team to ensuring that high needs students get the support that they need to be successful.”
Secretary King is right. Montgomery County Public Schools is deeply committed to our mission that every student will have the academic, creative problem solving, and social emotional skills to be successful in college and career. But to fulfill this critical commitment, we must move beyond the minimal funding level that has become the status quo. We must reinvest in our students to fund their future.
For the last seven years, Montgomery County Public Schools has trimmed staff, cut programs and spread our resources thin in response to the nationwide economic downturn and the slow recovery that followed. During this time, we have cut more than 1,800 positions and more than $300 million.
We tightened our belts and accepted the minimal funding level with the understanding that in tough times we must all do our part. But we cannot continue to disinvest in education, especially as our student body continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. We must all do our part again and fully fund our proposed budget.
Built on a foundation of our core values of Learning, Respect, Relationships, Excellence and Equity and developed in collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents and community members, the Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget proposes a 4.5 percent increase from FY 2016 to fund the same level of services for more than 2,500 additional students.
The proposed budget focuses on closing the achievement gap with targeted investments to improve students’ literacy and math skills; build the cultural proficiency of staff; foster stronger partnerships with the community and our families to support students; and better organize the district to ensure every student is prepared for college and careers. We believe funding these strategic enhancements will help us meet our goal of educating each and every student so that academic success is not predictable by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Additionally, the budget includes funding for negotiated agreements to ensure we retain the outstanding women and men who teach, secure and support the nearly 160,000 students in our community.
Our proposed budget is a strategic and deliberate reinvestment in the students who are the future of our county, country and the world. They will be engines of innovation that shape our tomorrow. Investing in their education today, funds our future.
Over the next few months, we will work with our parents, staff, students and community members to advocate for this essential investment in education. The resources we are asking for are not everything that we need, but they are a down payment on the future. Please join us as we all work together to #MCPSFundOurFuture.
The writers, Michael Durso and Larry Bowers, are president of the Board of Education and interim superintendent of schools, respectively.