MCPS Superintendent Unveils Plan To Increase Spending 2.7 Percent, Enhance Learning Opportunities

School board will consider $2.59 billion budget proposal


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Superintendent Jack Smith presented his proposed operating budget at Rockville High School on Tuesday night.

Bethany Rodgers

This story was updated at 1 p.m Dec. 20

A spending plan crafted by the Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent would expand career learning opportunities and dual-language programs while trimming positions in central administration.

Superintendent Jack Smith on Tuesday evening unveiled his proposed fiscal 2019 operating budget, a $2.59 billion plan that would increase spending by 2.7 percent over the prior year.

Smith told the crowd at Rockville High School that the second budget he’s designed as MCPS superintendent will again focus on maintaining the system’s strengths and extending its reach to students who are underserved.

“Most of you know my favorite saying: You don’t have to be sick to get better,” he said to the audience.

Overall, the proposed budget would be $67.3 million larger than the prior year’s version and add more than 166 positions to the school system.

About $16.9 million of that increase relates to enrollment growth of about 2,472 students, and another $1.87 million is for the opening of the new elementary school in Rockville and the addition of the eighth grade at Silver Creek Middle School in Kensington.

Smith also wants to give students the chance to explore fields such as cybersecurity, public safety, emergency medical care, fire safety, agricultural science and aviation. The budget proposal includes funding for adding more dual-language schools and exposing more elementary school students to language learning opportunities.

A spending increase of about $1.9 million is proposed for increasing access to innovative programs in literacy and mathematics. More funding is directed toward strengthening partnerships with community groups and adding computer coding as an elective course.

The budget plan Smith introduced also includes a variety of cuts, although he reiterated his commitment to keep resources flowing toward the classroom and targeting central services for most of the reductions. Of the roughly 72 positions proposed for elimination, more than 55 are in central services.

Smith said no one will lose a job in the staffing reductions, which will be achieved by attrition and as people shift to other positions within the school system.

The superintendent’s plan calls for realigning the staff inside the Office of School Support and Improvement so that it includes three teams, each responsible for a group of schools. Now, one division of the office focuses on elementary schools, another is dedicated to secondary schools and a third works with system administrators.

Smith said the newly configured groups will be interdisciplinary, with experts in curriculum instruction, equity and other topics, and will work together for specific schools.

“You’ll have a team of people who are responsible to support that school, challenge it, cheer it on … and be there to be both proactive and reactive at a moment’s notice,” Smith said during a Wednesday phone interview.

As he’d revealed at a previous school board meeting, the superintendent wants to try an expanded academic year at two elementary schools. Smith said he couldn’t announce the locations because MCPS administrators are still finalizing plans with the schools. Under the innovative program, students would begin classes on the same day next year as their peers elsewhere in the school system, but would stay in session until July 2019.

While Gov. Larry Hogan has directed Maryland school districts to start summer break by mid-June, his executive order states that schools proposing non-traditional schedules can apply for a waiver, Smith said.

The superintendent is asking the county for $1.7 billion in education funding for fiscal 2019, about $64.1 million more than the prior year. The county is obligated to provide about $24.6 million of that increase because of a state law that requires local jurisdictions to fund schools at the same per-pupil amount from year to year.

Smith acknowledged that because of the county’s current financial difficulties, MCPS might have to scale back its initial funding request and support more of the proposed school system budget with its own savings.

The school board will review Smith’s spending plan in the coming weeks and is scheduled to adopt a version in February. The proposal will then head to the County Council for review, with final action slated for June.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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