Budget cuts will affect jobs, class size

By Eugenia Cardinale and Isabel Dibble

Due to budget cuts, MCPS schools will face staff reductions and class size increases next school year.

The Montgomery County Board of Education, employee associations, the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) and interim Superintendent Larry Bowers are working with elected officials in Annapolis to try to restore some of the $25 million of reductions made to the budget and to minimize layoffs.

“The Board and I recognize that this news is unsettling and creates uncertainty at a time when our district is going through a leadership transition,” Bowers said in a March 9 press statement. “We believe we are taking a responsible, thoughtful approach, and we know that, regardless of the fiscal situation, MCPS staff will continue to serve our students well.”

More than 150 staff positions will be reduced by increasing class sizes at all grades levels. In high schools, average class sizes will increase by 0.5 percent at schools with higher free and reduced-price meals (FARMS) and will increase one percent at other schools, including CHS.

“For us high school teachers, if classes increase by one, that means we really have five additional students because we really teach five classes,”  AP Human Geography teacher Adam Field said. “That negatively impacts the amount of time we have to devote to assessing and grading students’ work.”

Students will also be impacted by the increase in class sizes. While some students say this will will not have a large impact, others believe an increase in class sizes will have negative effects.

“Students will not be able to pay attention when even more of their friends are around,” sophomore Samuel Yosef said. “When learning in big groups, there is less of that one-to-one teaching that many students prefer.”

Other positions being held back include ESOL teachers, special education teachers, staff development teachers and media assistants.

“As a staff member, none of us like to hear the word budget cuts,” special education teacher Aaron Vactor said. “People lose jobs, and I am a family man, so these cuts can change lives.”

While interim Superintendent Bowers remains “hopeful” that the County Council can fund the Board’s budget, the Board has decided to start preparing for cuts now because waiting until the County Council approves the budget in May will make it harder for schools to implement these reductions before the end of the school year.

“The hope is that the cuts do not happen,” Field said. “I think that MCPS is trying to do the best they can to give people time to prepare in case they are affected by a cut.”

According to Bower’s March 9 press statement, principals received staffing allocations for next year and will let their school know how it is being impacted.

Many hope that MCPS will handle these tough decisions as best as they can.

“I was a student of MCPS and now an employee, so I believe we have one of the best public school systems in the country,” Vactor said. “So with that belief I have to understand that tough decisions have to be made to protect that very brand or identity that we are benefitting from.”

According to Assistant Principal Doreen Brandes, decisions are still being made and staffing is “still in flux.”