All In: Students, Classrooms and Schools
$2.59 billion is a lot of money to ask the Board of Education, the County Government and you—the taxpayers—to invest in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. But it is the amount I believe necessary to ensure that all 161,546 students in MCPS have the resources, access and opportunities to meet their potential and achieve at the highest levels.
Data show that MCPS has done very well for many students for a long time. But there are some students—especially those who are Black, Latino and those who live in poverty—we have not served as well. The question we are compelled to answer is how do we maintain the high level of learning for many students while increasing the opportunities and levels of learning for those who experience learning disparities. It is only by effectively answering this question that there will be true equity and excellence in our school system.
This year, the Board of Education developed a Strategic Plan designed to ensure all students graduate with deep academic knowledge and become prepared for tomorrow’s complex world and workplace. Through the FY 2019 Budget, we seek the funding to implement this plan. For, as Chief Financial Officer Nicola Diamond recently pointed out, “The budget is just the money that backs up our plan.” When we have a strong plan, grounded in research and funded appropriately, students will thrive.
On December 19, I presented my proposed FY 2019 operating budget to the community. To ensure that it helps meet our goals of equity and excellence, we built it on a framework that includes strategic priorities in our key bodies of work. It also includes considerations such as employee contracts and salaries; enrollment and growth; employee benefits; inflation, rate, grant and other changes; and efficiencies that we plan to build into the system. These puzzle pieces fit together to create MCPS.
The recommended budget for FY 2019 is a $67.30 million (2.7 percent) increase over FY 2018. Most of this increase will be used to provide the same level of services to our growing number of students, ongoing salaries and benefits and increasing operational costs, but it also includes more than $7.5 million to expand and implement our key bodies of work. This includes:
- Introducing new career readiness pathways, including Aviation and Aerospace; Cybersecurity; Fire Safety and Rescue; Law Enforcement and Leadership; and more
- Adding more two-way elementary language immersion programs
- Expanding programs in Computer Science, Coding and Robotics
- Implementing extended year programs at two elementary schools beginning July 2019
- Launching a Recovery Education program
- Expanding the College Tracks and Achieving Collegiate Excellence & Success (ACES) programs
- Expanding Middle and Early College programs
To achieve our learning and operational goals, we must not only spend the dollars where we said we would, but we must also be more methodical, systematic and purposeful in our approach to measuring student learning, analyzing success, and designing and implementing programs and services that support individual students, classrooms, subject areas, and schools. We must evaluate everything we do with the goal of reorganizing or eliminating what is less effective, and extending or expanding what is most successful.
My proposed budget is more than an accounting of dollars in and dollars out. It is more than a fiscal document. It is a promise, a commitment to you and to our students. We promise that we will work diligently every day to build on the excellence we have achieved over time, creating more opportunities for all students to achieve the highest levels of learning possible.
$2.59 billion is a lot of money. But, when it is spent to serve our students—the future of our county and nation—it is a sound investment anyone can make.
Good Read/Good Listen
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.
Good Read: 6 Potential Brain Benefits of Bilingual Education, National Public Radio