At a joint MCR-MCJC regional student government General Assembly that drew over 370 delegates from middle and high schools across the county, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joshua Starr implored students to advocate for the proposed additions to the MCPS 2015-2016 budget. Though acknowledging the fiscal challenges confronting the county government, Dr. Starr stood firm in the belief that education should be Montgomery County’s top priority.
“The county is saying that they’ve got a major budget deficit, and they still need to fund the police department as well as the other public services they provide. Our governor also said there’s a $1 billion deficit. Yet many of our teachers and staff have not gotten what they’ve deserved for years,” stated Dr. Starr.
According to Dr. Starr, the County Council withheld $78 million from the school system’s budget in 2013 as reserve funds to be invested this year. Securing funding is crucial to materializing the Board of Education’s goals of improving MCPS’s infrastructure.
“We need money to support our employees, technology, and efforts to achievement gap. If our budget doesn’t get fully funded, we will have to make cuts,” Dr. Starr said.
Dr. Starr further expressed concerns about providing innovative programs to students in times of fiscal inadequacies. Despite the popularity of new technologies and increased field trips, without sufficient funding, MCPS will be forced to make “difficult choices.”
“By law, I’m required to advocate for the budget. But you [students] are better advocates than people in suits like me,” added Dr. Starr. Encouraging students to reach out to legislators to ensure funding for MCPS, Dr. Starr believed that the impact is more powerful when policymakers directly hear from students about the personal costs of budget cuts.
Dr. Starr bid students to launch a ‘physical and virtual campaign’ in support of full-funding of the proposed MCPS budget. “By leverage what you’re good at—social media—you guys can run an active campaign to let adults know what’s important to you,” he noted.
“If we do not invest in you, we are selling ourselves short. If you’re not educated, our democracy is a waste,” concluded Dr. Starr.
During the ensuing question and answer session, Dr. Starr addressed inquiries regarding mental health, testing policies, and the academic achievement gap, among other topics. Ultimately, Dr. Starr envisions a MCPS education as not only a gateway to college and career readiness, but also an opportunity to improve one’s character.
“When I went through school, I did not take a single test where the content assessed eventually found itself useful in my career. School should be a place where you become a better person,” he noted.
Dr. Starr articulated hopes for the fruition of school start-time changes and support for environmental initiatives.
Steven Priester, Maryland’s Student Member of the State Board of Education, also gave remarks at the meeting. Priester elaborated on the responsibilities of the Maryland State BOE as well as opportunities for students to become more involved.
The General Assembly was hosted by Richard Montgomery High School on December 18. The next MCR General Assembly will take place on Wednesday, February 12.
Article by the MoCo Student News Staff