All In: An Investment to Prepare Our Students for Their Futures
I often speak about the moral imperative to ensure that every student has an education that prepares him or her for college or career. It is indeed the sole purpose of Montgomery County Public Schools. In order to fulfill this mission, we must ensure that each student has the access, opportunity and resources to meet their full potential. ALL children deserve the highest quality education. ALL children must be prepared to thrive in their futures.
Consequently, this purpose is the foundation of my recommended Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 operating budget. It is a budget that continues our focus on students, classrooms and schools.
The operating budget can look like a collection of numbers; it can sometimes be hard to fully understand. But when I look at it from another direction, it can also look like a rich painting of who we are and what we do; or, a detailed road map showing where we are and where we are going. It lays out the investment we need to carry out our strategic plan.
The Recommended FY 2021 Operating Budget totals a little more than $2.8 billion. It is a $121 million or 4.5 percent increase compared to the FY 2020 Operating Budget. It focuses on investments in key areas including: equity in student academic experience; school safety and supervision; operational excellence; student physical, social and psychological well-being; and workforce development and innovation. These priorities reflect the input of a diverse set of stakeholders, including parents, students, teachers, principals, support staff and community advocates. I thank them all for their honest and insightful thoughts and ideas.
This budget recommendation accommodates a growing student population; we are expecting more than 2,800 more students next year. It realigns funding in certain areas to improve teaching and learning for all students, and includes program efficiencies and reductions where appropriate.
In addition, my recommended budget proposes:
- The creation of three new regional International Baccalaureate centers to provide more access to rigorous coursework
- Additional staff to support our growing population of English Language Learners
- Additional psychologists to support student mental health and well-being
- A new specialized team that focuses on attracting, recruiting and retaining a highly qualified and diverse teacher workforce to support the needs of all students
- A new after-school supervision structure to ensure student safety beyond the regular school day
- Additional security staffing
- An equity and innovation fund that will support creative school-focused approaches to ensuring equity and achievement for all students
- Continued expansion of prekindergarten and Head Start programs
- Enhanced community engagement to reach underserved families and communities
- Additional funding to meet employee contractual agreements
I believe these enhancements, in conjunction with the investments made in our students, classrooms and schools over the last several years, are critical to diminishing disparities in student outcomes and ensuring students succeed.
I understand that this budget request represents a significant investment by our community. We developed it with the goal of maintaining the high levels of achievement that many of our students experience, while eliminating opportunity gaps that impact some of our student populations.
The Equity and Achievement Framework has guided us as we developed this recommendation. We will continue to monitor our students’ progress through our data dashboards. Based on student results, we can make adjustments to constantly improve learning opportunities for ALL students.
This budget recommendation to the Board of Education is the beginning of a process. The Board will now hold a series of work sessions and public hearings on this request before submitting its budget request to the Montgomery County Executive and the County Council. The Board will adopt a final budget in June 2020 after the County Council releases its FY 2021 Operating Budget in late May.
While this recommended budget will not only maintain the excellent school system that this community has experienced over the years, it will also provide even more opportunities for learning and growth. By working under a system of continuous improvement, we can continue to create a more equitable student experience, which leads to ever better student outcomes.
I thank you for your continued support and advocacy on behalf of our students. It makes a difference.
As we all know, learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. I am constantly learning about new ideas and exploring new perspectives. I do this through books, articles and podcasts. Each blog, I will share a few of the most interesting ones with you. Some have made me ask questions, some have irritated me; others have made me smile or frown. I hope they make you think critically and open doors to new information and ideas.
Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, by Rucker C. Johnson
The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, by Paul Tough