One known trait of Montgomery County is the quality of its school systems. Because of this reputation, current student enrollment and projected enrollment have MCPS practically bursting at the seams. Due to this jump in the number of students, the demand for school-related services has also increased. As a result, the MCPS board has struggled to find funding to accommodate the additional demand in school resources.
Members of the parent teacher association (PTA) for MCPS met with Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive, to discuss the concern over identifying sources of additional funding. PTA members suggested an increase in property taxes to then increase the MCPS budget. Leggett responded that he believed requesting an increase in property taxes would also create obstacles, including the Ficker Amendment, which created an anti-tax legislation and passed in 2008. Essentially, the amendment states that all nine members of the Montgomery County Council must agree on a budget that surpasses the county charter limit.
Obstacles also include the necessary number of votes to obtain approval from Council Members. At the forum with the PTA, Leggett added that not everyone felt the same way about increasing property taxes for MCPS purposes. For all nine members to approve a proposal, Leggett mentioned he needed to propose something all council members could accept because they all feel so differently about the tax increase.
Another difficulty mentioned by Leggett was that increasing property taxes may force offsetting cuts in other county services. For instance, one set of cuts being proposed would cause a decrease in jobs and budgets in other Montgomery County departments. The main idea being that each solution affects another department, system, or service. Also during the meeting, Leggett announced that creating changes in the school system is not as easy as it may seem. He touched on the point that many people do not understand the difficulties and the consequences of increasing property taxes in the county.
In addition to budget effects, county residents also offered concerns over non-budget related effects of overcrowding. “I just think that people have it all wrong,” a Montgomery County resident and parent said. “I’m sure those on the board know that the reason why so many students are in the Montgomery County School System is because of its reputation. The thing is building these new apartment buildings simply increases the number of students entering MCPS. And making the enrollment size even larger has only done more damage than help.”
“You’re supposed to be able to go to a teacher for help when you need them, and whenever I do there are fifteen other kids in the class needing help as well,” says Maya Givens, a sophomore at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School.
On average, the MCPS system is projected to increase by over 2,000 kids per school year for the next several years. With a class average of 28 students to a kindergarten classroom and an average of 30 students to a classroom in first grade, MCPS may lack the sufficient resources to provide adequately for each student.
Article by the MoCo Student Staff Writer Corina Davis of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School