The Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) recently held a Budget Forum on February 27th. The forum was a chance for community members—ranging from middle school students to adults—to ask questions about the Superintendent’s Proposed Operating Budget to both Board of Education (BOE) members and County Council Members.
Students in attendance include Student Member of the Board John Mannes, MCR Vice President Richie Yarrow, and Richard Montgomery High School students Zoey Tang and Helen Luo.
The Board of Education approved Dr. Joshua Starr’s proposed budget six to one on February 26th. The budget is a $2.2 billion request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. This budget is a 2.6 percent increase from FY 2013, and it is less than 1 percent above the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) level required by the state.
Many issues were brought up including a request for more counselors, responsible budget planning, the achievement gap, and technology integration.
An elementary school counselor asked the panel about a more accommodating student-to-counselor ratio. The American School Counselor Association recommends a 1-to-250 counselor-to-student ratio, while the national average is 1-to-459, according to the 2008-2009 NCES Common Core Data (CCD). Middle schools and high schools in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) have a 1-to-300 counselor-to-student ratio on average. In many MCPS elementary schools, however, there is only one counselor for the entire school.
Many County Council members agreed with County Executive Isaiah Leggett. “I call public education in Montgomery County the crown jewel. What we have provided MCPS has been an excellent investment,” Leggett stated.
While the County Council agreed that MCPS is “an excellent investment,” local funding for public education has decreased 10 percent in the past decade.
The achievement gap among different demographics was brought up several times. County Council President and former BOE member Nancy Navarro along with Leggett were very outspoken about this particular issue. “We need to have a partnership with everyone to close the racial achievement gap,” Leggett explained to a full room.
Starr also spoke about a new approach that could be undertaken to enclose the achievement gap. “We have an opportunity to build on the strengths of MCPS. This will help to close the achievement gap and prepare for a new way of teaching,” Starr said.
Another topic that both BOE and County Council Members were very supportive of was technology integration. Starr has been focusing on educating students for the 21st Century since he became superintendent of schools. Initiatives such as Bring Your Own Device and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARC), Starr commented, will surely change education in MCPS forever.
Article by Christina McCann, SAC press correspondent, sophomore at Blair High School
Photo credit: MCCPTA