BOE approves Superintendent Starr’s budget

BOE+approves+Superintendent+Starr%27s+budget

Starr discusses future plans for MCPS with student journalists

By Katie Gauch, Editor in Chief

Focused on closing the achievement gap and overseeing growth in schools, the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) approved a $2.32 billion budget Feb. 11 for the 2015 Fiscal Year.

The Board’s approval of the budget enables MCPS to control the district’s spending and allows the county to make any needed changes to promote student success.

“This budget will allow MCPS to keep up with its rapid enrollment growth and invest wisely and strategically to improve teaching and learning,” Board President Phil Kauffman said in a February 2014 MCPS Public announcement.

The country gains about 2,500 students every year, so most of the budget will go toward managing growth and increasing the number of teachers to serve ESOL and special education students.

According to a December 2013 MCPS article, $24.1 million from the total budget will be dedicated to ESOL and specialized teachers.  As the number of students increases every year, so does the number of students who “require specific services and support.

The four main needs the budget addresses is increasing the pay of teachers, saving on health insurance, allowing students to send in anonymous reports about teachers and their learning, and installing a “career lattice” program among teachers.  The “Career Lattice” program is a system to give back to the best teachers who teach in the most highly-demanding schools.

The budget also allowed for MCPS to commit to contract with three employee associations: the administrators union, the teachers union, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 500), a group of 2.1 million people who want to improve the lives of workers to create a healthly environment.

“This is the first time we’ve had a three-year contract in five to six years because of the economy, so it’s nice to finally have some stability,” Superintendent Joshua Starr said in a Feb. 24 press conference with MCPS student journalists.

According to a February 2014 MCPS public announcement, this program will “acknowledge effective, veteran teachers” who chose to continue to teach rather than take a job in administration departments.

The approved budget will also account for money designated to change tests to promote new and creative thinking in students.  Some of these changes include replacing the HSA assessments to the PARCC assessment, remaking and refreshing the current curriculum and lowering class sizes.

“Everything’s completely changing, so we are helping kids get ready for a very different set of expectations,” Starr said.

The Board passed the budget, changing very little to what Starr had requested.  The additional money added will aid professional development in cultural competency, an increase in number of pre-K classes, and will incorporate the three-year contract into the budget.

According to MCPS public information officer Dana Tofig, the Board passed the budget 2.4 percent higher than the minimum funding level that was originally proposed.

Now that the Board approved the budget, it will go to the Country Executive and then to the County Council.

“It’s a long, drawn-out process, and we’ll see if the elected officials give me what we’ve asked for, which will be a big question,” Starr said.