2018 | Schools

Governor’s Proposed Budget Includes More School Funding for County

Extra money could go toward reducing elementary class size, increasing staff to support English language learners, special education students

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State funding for next year’s county school operating budget could total $19 million more than school officials expected under the governor’s budget plan.

The state provides roughly 27 percent of the Montgomery County public schools $2.65 billion budget and the governor’s proposal, released late last week, would increase the state’s contribution over the previous year by 4 percent, for a total of $735 million.

When county schools Superintendent Jack Smith released his proposed fiscal 2020 budget, which is currently under review by the school board, he anticipated about $715 million in state funds.

At recent school board meetings, Smith has suggested any additional funds be put toward decreasing elementary class sizes, adding assistant principals to some elementary schools and increasing staffing to support English language learners and special education students.

The increase in state funding will also mean the county government’s contribution to the school’s budget could decrease, according to Montgomery County Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Nicky Diamond.

“We’re not sure how much that decrease will be right now, but the school board will discuss that at their upcoming meetings to determine how much will be added to each area identified for increases in funding,” Diamond said, adding increased funding is related to inflation rates.

The largest school district in Maryland, the Montgomery County school system received a comparable boost to other large districts in the governor’s proposal. Prince George’s County schools received 2 percent more in state funding. Baltimore County checked in at 3.8 percent, Anne Arundel with 4.7 percent and Baltimore City with no increase from the previous year to round out the state’s top five largest districts. The largest funding increase was to Garrett County Public Schools, tabbed with an 8.6 percent increase in funding.

Montgomery County receives the fourth-lowest total of per-pupil funding from the state at $5,723 per student, according to the governor’s budget. The county is behind Talbot, Worcester and Anne Arundel counties.

Statewide, Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget calls for a $347 million increase in education funding over the previous year, partially using money from casino revenue. The “vast majority” of the money collected through casino taxes will go toward teacher salaries, expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and extended academic programming for “at-risk students,” Hogan said.

“Once again, we will provide historically high, record funding for K-12 education – our fifth consecutive budget to do so,” Hogan said in a statement. “Not only will every single penny that every single jurisdiction anticipates from the state for education be fully funded at 100 percent, but every single school system in Maryland will again see increased investment by the state.”

County schools will also receive about 4 percent more in state retirement system funding.

The state legislature is beginning to review Hogan’s budget requests.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com