The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Budget outrage: A call to action for civic engagement

The MCPS Total Operating Budget has seen both increases and decreases since 2005, but has been sharply increasing since FY2022
Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Operating Budget
The MCPS Total Operating Budget has seen both increases and decreases since 2005, but has been sharply increasing since FY2022

On May 23, 2024, the Montgomery County Council approved a $7.1 billion budget for Montgomery County’s fiscal year 2025, which is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP) of at least 42 countries, according to Worldometer. This budget includes about $3.3 billion for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Although it is the most amount of money ever allocated to MCPS, it features some heavy spending cuts, most concerningly related to teacher salaries. 

Across the nation school districts are facing teacher shortages, and MCPS is no exception. According to the largest daily newspaper in Maryland, The Baltimore Sun, most counties in Maryland currently face the issue of having too few teachers teaching too large classes, making it difficult to consistently maintain a  high standard of education. Pointing fingers at factors such as more retiring teachers and less people interested in entering the profession is one thing, but acting to curtail the effects is something else. A law passed by the Maryland state legislature in 2021 called the “Blueprint For Maryland’s Future” aimed to address concerns with teacher shortages, with one of the many initiatives being to raise teacher salaries. Yet the slashing of the budget in this field directly contradicts that proposal– either MCPS will be forced to lower teacher salaries or they will be forced to cut positions as a whole. And it appears MCPS has already chosen the latter.

The same day the County Council approved the budget, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), one of the largest teacher’s unions in the state, claimed that MCPS had informed the union on May 21 that the school system planned to terminate over 300 educators as a result of the budget cuts. Teachers are by far impacted the hardest by these changes, but paraeducators, service workers, and other building staff alike will all face potential ramifications. And as class sizes only continue to swell, reducing the number of teachers decreases the quality of education that MCPS has long prided itself on.

As of now, it seems the area that will be hit hardest by the teacher cuts is MCPS’ Virtual Academy. According to an anonymous MCPS high school teacher spoken to by Montgomery Community Media, MCPS is considering eliminating the entirety of the Virtual Academy, laying all the teachers off and shutting down operations. While the Virtual Academy serves considerably fewer students than the physical classrooms of MCPS, it is by no means a small operation, with five distinct schools, entire administrative and counseling departments, and their own office buildings. It would seem that MCPS has determined slimming down the Virtual Academy is the least destructive path to adapt to the budget cuts. Nonetheless, there are educators who depend on the Virtual Academy to provide for themselves and their families, and students who depend on it for a style of education best adapted to them.

Story continues below advertisement

It is important to note that the cuts made to the recommended school spending plan are not without purpose. In such a historically large budget, other initiatives no doubt had credible reason to receive additional funding. For example, the County budget includes an expansion of “Drones in the First Responder” program, in which police forces and emergency services sometimes deploy drones to investigate the site of a 911 call and then assess, based on the drone footage, whether or not the situation requires additional response, and what kind. Therefore, this program has been lauded by law enforcement as both effective and safe. 

Moreover, specifically pertaining to MCPS, the County budget includes money to fund oversight and accountability initiatives within the school system. Seen as a response to the criticism that the school system mishandled sexual harassment allegations pertaining to former Farquhar Middle School principal Joel Beidleman, the initiatives include multiple new positions in the Office of the Inspector General dedicated to establishing an MCPS oversight office. 

Overall, it is one thing entirely to complain about the budget cuts, but based on funding for other projects and unforeseen attrition of funds in other ways, these cuts may have unfortunately been inevitable. However, the teacher’s unions claim the cuts could have been allocated somewhere else. Previous MCPS initiatives such as mental health funding have received criticism in the past for being ineffective and hardly used. Interestingly, the new MCPS budget includes even more funding for mental health resources: this time specifically targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

At this point, the budget has been finalized and approved, so there is not much that can be changed. But Montgomery County and MCPS would be wise to reevaluate the necessity of certain programs and initiatives come time to approve fiscal year 2026’s budget. Teachers, students, and the entire community suffers when the needs of the school system are not met.  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Maximus Wang, Promotions & Subscriptions Manager
Maximus Wang is a sophomore and one of the many Promotions and Subscription goons on the Observer staff this year. When he’s not slaving away for one cause or another, he’ll probably be contemplating his life decisions or having an identity crisis, and usually, both. 

Comments (0)

All The Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *