Questions sent to speakers in advance of meeting Dec. 17, 2014

Questions sent to speakers in advance of December 17th meeting:

1. Only 25% of county households have children in the public school system, yet 100% of households pay for the schools. There is a quite widely held view that the Board and the Superintendent do not appear interested in answering questions from the public. What will you do to increase communication between MCPS and the other 75% of households who foot the bill but have no students in the public school system?

2. The Maintenance of Effort (MoE) law while a boon to the school system provides no such favors to the rest of the County government. With the recent dismal revenue projections for Montgomery County which will very likely result in a reduction to the County Government in FY 2016 while increasing funding to the school system at the mandated MoE level, what is your position on the MoE law and do you have any suggestions for its amendment?

3. Given the growing over-capacity of our school buildings and the proliferation of portables, the need for school construction funding is an issue with which we all agree. Would you agree that reducing the cost of renovations, additions and new school construction would help reduce the backlog of schools on the waiting list. What actions do you think the county can take to reduce costs such as changes in construction procedures, changes in siting procedures, moving to “design-build” in bidding out contracts, looking at pre-fabricated buildings, fighting for reduced regulation from Annapolis regarding “prevailing wages”, etc. Also what do you think the BoE can do to temper constituent expectations about building what some have described as “5-star hotel design” school buildings so that scarce resources can be used for a greater number of school construction projects?

4. When reviewing the system’s budget request for FY 2016, will you look at costs or outcomes, or both? When outcomes are not supplied, how do you estimate them? When baseline costs are not broken down by strategy how do you evaluate them? Do you have a standard for non-instructional costs as a percentage of total costs?

5. Is “equity” spending which directs more resources to schools that need them the most, a sufficient criterion for evaluating program alternatives? How should achievement gap performance goals be factored into the study to improve “bang for the buck”?

6. In the FY 2015 budget, the Career Lattice Program called for 250 exemplary teachers to be awarded extra compensation for serving as lead teachers in lower income schools. Should this pilot program be expanded in FY16? What would it cost? What are the criteria you would use for expansion?
7. When the FY 2015 budget was formulated, oil and gas prices were at record highs. What are the savings accrued from the plummet in prices? Given that this decrease in prices is likely to continue, will the FY 2016 budget reflect the new scenario?

8. Given the very high cost of union contracts, does it seem fair that the very same staff negotiating with the unions benefit from the outcome of these negotiations? Do you see an inherent conflict of interest here? Would an independent board lend credibility to the process?

“Getting the school system we pay for”

From the Gazette of July 10, 2013, a letter to the editor by MCTL Board member Gordon Brenne:

We’ve also shown there is no correlation between what teachers are paid and student performance improvements. And, because our teachers are paid 20 percent more than teachers in Howard and Fairfax counties, we can afford fewer of them, increasing our reliance on paraeducators to teach in underperforming schools.

  Read the full story at the Gazette.


Questions sent to Janette Gilman in advance of the meeting of February 28, 2013

Questions sent to Janette Gilman, President, Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA), in advance of the meeting of February 28, 2013

1.  How does the MCCPTA define “full funding” for MCPS?  What would you consider the “floor” for the MCPS budget?

2.  What is MCCPTA’s role in determining the MCPS budget?  Is there a tripartite budget committee (MCPS – Unions- MCCPTA) that negotiates and approves the budget prior to its release? Have there been any instances where the MCCPTA did not agree with the MCPS and Union proposals or are you in lock step with them?

3. There are no targets in either the MCPS budget or the MCPS strategic plan for reducing the achievement gap?  Does the MCCPTA support an “equity” budget where funding allocations would favor those schools that have disproportionately high African-American, Hispanic and FARMS concentrations with relatively low performance outcomes? How confident is the MCCPTA that the placement of teachers is strategically determined? What is the MCCPTA position on allocating our most highly-paid, senior and most experienced teachers to red zone schools where the achievement gap is most pronounced?

4.  What is the MCCPTA position on sharing administrative services with the Montgomery County Government – services such as procurement, IT, human resources, etc.?  Are you confident that the costs related to these duplicative  administrative entities are justified and are not stealing resources from the classroom?

5.  Montgomery County has acquired a reputation for the quality of its public schools.  What does the MCCPTA consider the top 3 performance indicators for the success of its students?  How do these indicators compare with Howard and Fairfax counties? 



“School board member speaks out about union contracts minutes before vote”

From the Montgomery Gazette of June 14, 2012:

"School board member Laura Berthiaume (Dist. 2) said Thursday that, although she believes school employees should be recognized for their work, the school system should not make promises that it can’t keep….Robert Monsheimer, of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, told board members Thursday that, while the county might have been able to give the raises this year due to cost savings, the move is equivalent to buying a car because enough money exists for a downpayment but without worrying about payments in the future.

“This has longterm implications that the taxpayers will pay,” he said."

Read the full story at the Montgomery Gazette.

Teachers’ Union Pres. Defends Lobbying

Teachers’ union president defends the union’s lobbying, but did he inadvertently betray his own cause?

When the economy crashed last year and a contract we had bargained in better economic times was no longer feasible, MCEA members voted overwhelmingly to forgo $89 million in pay raises for the current school year. We know that the recession has made it necessary for everyone to make sacrifices.

The coming years won’t be much rosier.

Read the full op-ed at the Washington Post »

Post: “Cash on the barrel”

The Post’s editorial board wants to know whose interests the Council really serves

In effect, local officeholders are so beholden to the union that they have forfeited their obligation to exercise independent oversight over contract negotiations. One result is that the average salary for a Montgomery County teacher, $76,483, is the highest among suburban school systems in the Washington area…But what confidence can the public have that officeholders in Montgomery are carefully weighing competing interests when most of them are held hostage to the overbearing influence of a single union?

Read the full editorial at the Washington Post »

Gazette: “County, labor union at an impasse in contract negotiations”

The Gazette reports on the contract fracas between the county and the MCGEO employee union:

Gino Renne, president of The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization [said] ‘But the county will have to get off their high horse and take a leap of faith with their work force,’

Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents teachers [said] the teachers’ union is aware of the county’s financial difficulties, but would not rule out seeking pay raises…

‘We do not have resources to pay for additional employee compensation this year,’ [Nancy] Floreen [Montgomery County Council President (D-At large) of Garrett Park] said. ‘I do believe everybody understands that.’

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) also has said it would be difficult to give pay raises to employees…

Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg … criticized by Renne last year — when Andrews served as council president — for saying the county could not afford cost-of-living or step pay increases for employees…said Monday that pay raises remain unaffordable.”

Read the full article at the Gazette »