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Councilmember Craig Rice’s Statement on Funding for Montgomery County Public Schools

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 12, 2015

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee, made the following statement regarding funding for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) as the Board of Education prepares to make important program decisions at its meeting of Tuesday, June 16:

As chair of the Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee, I have been very pleased to work with my colleagues on the Board of Education to ensure sufficient resources to maintain the excellence of our Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system. The Council provided funding in the next year that will continue to make MCPS one of the nation’s top school systems. My colleagues on the Council and I are concerned about the impact that the Interim Superintendent’s budget proposal to increase class size and reduce technology could have on schools and students. At its meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Education has the opportunity to allocate the funds in its budget in a manner that will best serve the MCPS instructional program.

The Governor’s refusal to allocate the additional State Aid for education that the General Assembly had identified has frustrated us all. The reality is that continued economic uncertainty and lower tax revenues have hampered the Council’s ability to more fully fund the school system. While the County is making cautious progress in climbing out of the recent recession, serious fiscal constraints continue to dominate the Council’s budget decisions and require us, and County agencies such as MCPS, to continue to make difficult budget choices.

I assure my friends and fellow parents in MCPS that even in these tight economic times, education continues to be the Council’s top funding priority. The Council appropriates 54 percent of all agency spending to MCPS, and has dedicated this same proportion of available agency funds to schools before and throughout the recent recession. While the school system, along with other County agencies, made many adjustments during these difficult years, the total MCPS budget contains 631 more positions than it did seven years ago at the beginning of the recession and a total of 21,580 positions in the current year.

My fellow Councilmembers and I have found creative solutions to maximize resources for MCPS instructional programming. The State required Maintenance of Effort funding level alone required an increase of $31.9 million for fiscal year 2016, and has required increases of $22-27 million each year for the past three years. In addition to these increases to the MCPS budget, the Council has directed other County funds outside of the school system budget totaling approximately $290 million each year to support MCPS and its operating expenses. Last year, in part using County resources to offset MCPS expenses for retiree health care, we were able to fully fund the Board of Education’s budget request. This year, we again are allocating $27.2 million in County resources to pay these retiree health costs, freeing up MCPS to spend its dollars on instructional programs. The Council also added $2 million to next year’s budget for technology modernization which we hope will be used to create universal access to technology to ensure equity among our students.

We know that Board members have difficult choices to make about class size, compensation and benefits, and other instructional issues as they approach their final budget action next week. I look forward to continuing to work with them as they make these choices because we all have the same goal—providing a top quality education for all MCPS students.

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Release ID: 15-196
Media Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939, Delphine Harriston 240-777-7931