Dr. Starr Releases Funding Proposal for MCPS
Superintendent Joshua Starr released his Fiscal Years 2015-2020 recommendations on October 28, 2013, proposing 14 new classroom addition projects – twelve of which would be at elementary schools – that would add over a hundred classrooms to the Montgomery County public school system. Starr also advocated for the construction of five new schools.
Starr’s recommendations were appropriate considering that over the last six years, Montgomery County Public Schools’ enrollment has gone up significantly. MCPS gained over 14,000 new students, 90% of whom are elementary school students. MCPS enrollment has increased more than any other district in Maryland, and an estimated 11,000 more students will enroll in the next six years.
The biggest area of growth has been in the DCC (Downcounty Consortium), which has gained more than 4,100 elementary school students in the past six years.
In relation to the number of students it enrolls, MCPS habitually receives less than its reasonable share of state funding. In 2014, Montgomery County Public Schools requested 149.3 million dollars of aid for construction, but only received $35.1 million. This fiscal year, MCPS needs $1.55 billion.
This hefty sum of funding would primarily go towards increasing the number of classrooms, but would also be spent on upgrading heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Star recommended that 18 percent of the money be spent on infrastructure needs in MCPS like roof, door, and window replacements, the addition of security systems, and more.
In October, county officials, school officials, Maryland state delegates and state senators met at Julius West Middle School to ask the state for the necessary funding for the 2015 fiscal year. Many of the officials present asked for support from Baltimore County in return for the financial support Montgomery County had previously given them. According to Bethesda Now, District 18 State Senator Rich Madaleno stated, “The Montgomery County delegation unanimously supported last year’s legislation to assist Baltimore City schools because of their unique situation, but now Montgomery County is in the midst of its own unique crisis… we need help now, before the County and the state suffer economically.”
However, MCPS’ financial prospects do not look bright.
After meeting in Annapolis to discuss construction spending with the General Assembly, Montgomery County legislators say that the bill, which would greatly help with MCPS’ overcrowding, is not likely to pass. County Executive Isiah Leggett ascribed election politics and reduced estimates of state revenues as major factors that led to this outcome. In an interview with the Washington Post, Leggett remarked, “We’re still pushing for it. But I’m being realistic about it. I think that because this is an election year it will give [legislators] a little bit of a pause before taking on a big obligation at this point in time.”
Leggett also added that Annapolis “takes a step back before it takes a step forward”, meaning that Montgomery County still may have its chance to reconstruct. It took Baltimore County many years to get the money needed to pursue their infrastructure projects, and MCPS’ overcrowding problem will not be a major issue until late 2016. Hopefully, if Montgomery County legislators are patient and persistent, MCPS will receive its crucial funding.
Article by Jennifer Chen, the MoCo Student Staff Writer