CAT | Public Schools
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Are the taxpayers getting their money’s worth from the Montgomery County Public Schools?
From the Washington Post of May 4, 2013:
Recently released figures show failure rates of 62 percent for high school students taking the county’s geometry final and 57 percent for those taking the Algebra 2 exam. Among students taking the same courses on the honors level, 30 percent to 36 percent failed the end-of-semester tests in January, according to data from the school system.
The numbers have alarmed parents in the high-performing school system, where nearly 16,000 high school students in seven math courses did not pass their finals — a majority of the roughly 30,000 students taking those tests.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
From the Washington Post of April 16, 2013:
School spending in Montgomery County will grow by at least $100 million over the next four years, an increase driven by state laws that tighten requirements for annual local funding and shift part of teacher pension costs to counties, officials said Tuesday.
Montgomery spends roughly half of its $4 billion operating budget on K-12 education. But a County Council staff analysis found that state mandates created by the General Assembly in 2012 could turn education funding into what one council member called “a runaway train.”
Read the full story at the Washington Post.
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?
From the Washington Examiner of June 25, 2012:
“…the law effectively requires Montgomery County to give the county school system $30 million more in fiscal 2014 than in fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, and to keep funding for Montgomery College at the same level.
“As a result, funds available for other parts of the county — like police, fire, libraries, and the Transportation and the Park and Planning departments — are expected to drop by roughly $71 million…”
Read the full story at the Washington Examiner.
From the Montgomery Gazette of June 22, 2012:
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."
On May 12, 2012, Steve Farber, Council Staff Director, sent a memo to the County Council outlining how the county's FY2013 budget would be affected by the actions of the special session of the state legislature
"the County must add $27,227,553 to the MCPS budget. …
"…the Executive recommends this FY13 budget adjustment, including the estimated "offsets" to cover the cost. The offsets include $20,706,000 in additional FY 13 income tax revenue and $6,658,375 in additional FY13 recordation tax revenue from transactions involving indemnity deeds of trust. …As the Executive notes…while the offsets may be adequate in FY13, they will not keep up with the growing burden of the pension cost shift in future years. This fact, combined with the State's radical changes to the MOE law, could create serious fiscal challenges for the County."
Read the complete memo.
From the March 2012 newsletter of Council Member Nancy Floreen:
Stop the Shift
State budget efforts are underway, and we in Montgomery County are very concerned about some elements of the Governor's budget. In particular, the plan to some of the costs of shift teacher pensions to counties would have a serious impact on our ability to provide programs and services. The Montgomery County Council issued a statement opposing the shift. If you want to help, contact your State legislators. Here's the full text of the statement:
Maryland's counties and school systems face a serious problem in Annapolis right now. Governor O'Malley has proposed shifting half the cost of teacher and other pensions from the state to the counties. The County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), as well as our employee organizations and our counterparts throughout the state, strongly oppose this shift. As Board of Education President Shirley Brandman said on Feb. 14, the shift "will have an immediate negative impact on the important services that our local governments provide."
For Montgomery County, the proposed pension shift would cost $47 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and $315 million over the next five years. The measures proposed to help counties pay the cost are inadequate and may not be enacted in any event.
How much is $47 million? It pays for the jobs of nearly 500 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other vital County personnel. It is more than the County's general fund budgets for housing, transportation, and environmental protection combined. Our entire budget for libraries is less than $30 million.
The recessionary County budgets of the past three years required painful cuts that have seriously affected our residents and employees alike. For the coming year we face a further budget gap of $135 million and more hard decisions. If we now have to absorb another large burden from the state, there will be real damage to all our vital services – our schools, college, police, fire and rescue, safety net, libraries, parks, housing, transportation, recreation, and many others.
We understand that the state too must balance its budget and faces hard choices. But it is the state that sets the basic structure of pension benefits. In 2006 the state raised pension benefits by 29 percent, retroactive to 1998, but failed to provide sufficient funding. In fact, the state's financial support for the pension fund has fallen short for many years. Counties should not be asked to assume financial responsibility for costs not of their making. We have cut services to the bone, and we have reached our limit on taxes.
Elected officials and concerned organizations throughout the state, including the Maryland Association of Counties, the school community, and employee organizations, have joined together to convey this message to the Governor and the General Assembly. The coalition's web address is www.stoptheshiftmd.com. There you can learn how you can make a difference. The General Assembly will make its decision on the pension shift soon, probably by mid-March. The stakes for all our County residents are very high.
On November 29, 2011, Montgomery County's Office of Legislative Oversight released report number 2012-2, which was a detailed look at Category 12 of the budget of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).
"The primary expenditures in Category 12 are funding for employee benefits such as reitrement, health insurance, and social secuirty…
"From FY03 to FY12, Category 12 expenditures increased by 101% while total MCPS operating expenditures increased by about 57% (from $1.29 billion to $2.03 billion) during the same period.
"As a result, Category 12 expenditures as a percent of total MCPS operating expenditures have increased from 18% in FY03 to 23% in FY12."
Read the full report.