Plan to Fully Fund MCPS Budget Passes Council

Plan to Fully Fund MCPS Budget Passes Council

$2.6 billion allocation from county is above school board’s funding request

| Published:

The Montgomery County Council meets Monday afternoon in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

Anticipating additional state funding, the Montgomery County Council on Monday added $16 million to the amount of money requested by the county’s school system for its 2020 budget.

“Education is incredibly important. It starts with our very young children, and giving them all they need to be able to be successful,” said Craig Rice, the council’s Education & Culture Committee chairman.

The unanimous council vote, made as members were putting finishing touches on a number of budget categories, sets aside $2.68 billion for the state’s largest school system and is millions more than requested by the Board of Education.

The majority of additional funding is expected to come from the state and depends on the governor signing legislation spawned from the Kirwan Commission, a group that studied ways to improve Maryland schools. The legislation would provide $24.4 million for county schools in fiscal 2020.

The legislation mandates how the additional funding must be used, including for special education services, to assist low-income students, provide mental health resources and increase teacher salaries.

Money will also be put toward extended school year programs at two Silver Spring elementary schools, adding assistant principals at some schools and strengthening background checks for school staff.

County Executive Marc Elrich earlier this year attracted criticism when he recommended a $2.64 billion budget for the school system, about $14.5 million less than it sought — a cut that council member Andrew Friedson called “fatally flawed” because it didn’t fully fund the school board’s request.

The council pledged to find ways to find additional dollars as it scrutinized budget requests as part of its annual process.

While Elrich’s recommended funding was a $51 million increase over the current school budget, school officials and education advocates spoke out for full funding at public hearings, citing the importance of increasing students’ access to mental health services, combat crowding and reduce class sizes.

“This was a budget we believed was necessary to provide funding for same-level services for our students,” school board president Shebra Evans said. “We have work we can have done within this budget to work toward closing (the achievement and opportunity) gaps.”

“You will continue to get criticized for saying MCPS doesn’t do anything. Those are the people who don’t bother to look, who don’t bother to show up at a school … or don’t bother to ask the questions, because if you did, you would see we are doing the work within MCPS,” Rice said. “Those walls have great things happening, all you have to do is go in.”

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

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