County Schools Face Teacher Cuts, Class Size Increases if Budget Doesn't Grow, Weast Says
Superintendent unveils revised budget plan that uses state aid to add $42 million
Fewer teachers and support staff, and more crowded classrooms would be the result if the county doesn’t come through with an $82 million increase to the county schools budget, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said Friday.
The school system would be forced to cut up to 650 positions, including 193 teachers, and would increase average class size by one student next school year, Weast said in a briefing with reporters in Rockville.
In a week when County Executive Isiah Leggett told The Washington Examiner that the $2.164 billion fiscal 2012 operating budget proposal that Weast unveiled last month was “not practical,” the superintendent countered by outlining a revised proposal that would use state aid and savings to increase the budget plan by $42 million overall.
The revisions would increase Weast’s budget proposal to $2.206 billion.
Last week, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed a state budget that would result in Montgomery County receiving $37 million more state aid than anticipated in Weast’s original budget.
The $82 million would put county education aid at the maintenance of effort level, a state mandate that dictates per-pupil funding remain the same or higher from one fiscal year to the next. Counties that fail to meet the requirement could face a fine.
Leggett (D) said Tuesday that the county would pay the fine rather than meet the requirement.
The school system estimates that the fine would total $22 million this year.
The increase in state aid includes $31 million to replace federal stimulus dollars that disappear after the current fiscal year. And $6 million is due to state funding formulas that favor Montgomery because of the school system’s increases in enrollment, in students with limited English proficiency and in students from low-income families. The balance of the $42 increase would include $5 million in savings from this year’s budget.
Weast will take the revised proposal to the county school board next month. The board is scheduled to adopt a budget Feb. 14. Leggett will unveil his proposal for the fiscal 2012 county operating budget in March. The County Council is scheduled to give final approval to the budget in May.
County Council President Valerie Ervin has said that the county must consider reducing Weast’s budget proposal to close a $300 million county budget shortfall. Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the state should rewrite the maintenance of effort law.
Weast said other jurisdictions might be unlikely to support Montgomery’s attempt at a legislative remedy because some school systems are losing millions in state aid.
A message left for a Leggett spokesman was not returned Friday afternoon.
Sizing up potential cuts
Weast on Friday released a list of $82 million in potential cuts to the school system's fiscal 2012 operating budget, including $48 million in staff and programmatic reductions, if the county government does not fund the state's maintenance of effort requirement.
The school system would consider cutting $28 million in salary step increases due to about two-thirds of its workforce and would withhold $6 million set aside for funding future retiree benefits.
Of the remaining $48 million in proposed staff and programmatic cuts, here are the top five by cost savings:
|Increase average class size by one student by reducing teaching positions||193||$12.6 million|
|Reduce staff development teachers||79||$5.8 million|
|Reduce central office administrative positions and expenditures||13||$2.7 million|
|Reduce building service workers||60||$2.4 million|
|Reduce assistant school administrators||16||$2 million|