When the Maryland General Assembly convenes again in January, Montgomery County’s school board will focus on expanding access to early childhood education, ensuring school budgets are fully funded and eliminating the achievement gap.
Board members listed those items as their top priorities the Montgomery County school board on Tuesday morning when they met with county delegates to discuss priorities for the next legislative session.
At a recent meeting, the school board established its 2020 legislative priorities, which include:
• funding any legislatively mandated Kirwan Commission recommendations
• increasing state funding for career and technical education programs
• creating and funding a suicide awareness and prevention program
• prevention of gang involvement among students
• making pre-kindergarten services available to all students.
The board reiterated those priorities to the county delegation on Tuesday, and highlighted the need for school construction funding.
The board is in the middle of reviewing Superintendent Jack Smith’s recommended six-year capital improvements plan and capital budget. The budgets total $1.82 billion and set the long-range plan for school construction throughout the county.
About 20% of the county’s school construction funding comes from the state, while 80% is from local government, according to MCPS staff members.
“If we continue to collaborate, we know we can continue making MCPS the great system it is,” school board President Shebra Evans told the delegation.
Delegates and board members met in small groups, divided by legislative district, to discuss the board’s priorities, MCPS enrollment and student achievement data.
In its legislative platform, the school board makes clear it will oppose any legislation that would take away the “authority of local boards of education to determine educational policy, curriculum, additional graduation requirements and administration.”
The board also said it will oppose legislation that determines when the school year begins and ends, or that addresses curriculum, testing or staffing issues.
Smith acknowledged that in a county with a population of more than 1 million people, no law or policy change can please everyone, but it’s important to do what’s in the best interest of students and to ensure legislation has an impact on schools.
“Policy matters tremendously and the implementation of that policy matters tremendously,” Smith said. “They’re not just words. If they’re just words, it doesn’t matter. They have to impact how we serve our 165,000 pre-K through 12th-grade students right now sitting in our schools.”
The Maryland General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8. The legislative session runs until April 6.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org