with MCPS Budget Director Marshall Spatz last week
and asked a variety
of questions about the FY2007 recommended budget. Here are
questions and his responses and my comments on selected items. Please note that when I give him my opinion I am careful not to say it is the
MCCPTA position if it is something MCCPTA hasn't taken a position on.
(Most dollar figures are from citizens budget which includes benefits associated with each position, the personnel complement only uses salary figures--so if you notice discrepancies there are probably due to this. FTE means Full Time Equivalents--# number of positions)
In no particular order:
1. Why is there only $500,000 for MS reform and does MCPS have any plans yet for exactly how the money will be spent?
There actually are two chunks of money for MS reform. In addition to the $500,000 there is $840,000 in the Office of Organizational Development (OOD) that is intended for staff training in MS.
MCPS is currently considering extended day/extended year programs because these have some research supporting their effectiveness. He
added that MS reform efforts and all MS reform money needs to be spent on targeted programs which would help underachieving students pass state tests.
I commented to him that in my opinion the vast majority of parents would be extremely unhappy if the only result of MS reform was directed only at students who are not passing state tests as I thought many parents view MS as an intellectual wasteland and are expecting changes that will impact all students, not just students who are currently performing badly.
He went on to say that MCPS would like official input from MCCPTA regarding the $500,000 and they also would like input from local schools regarding any local programs that are working and could be brought to their MSs.
2. What is special Ed Tech support ($516,000 in budget) and why is MCPS developing its own system when the state has a program that MCPS could use for free?
This money is for a web-based IEP which will be used as an analytical tool to see what is working for kids. The state does have a program/template that could be used for recording a student's current IEP only. MCPS is purchasing a system which has more features including a data base that includes all past interventions which the student has received both before and after being coded as special ed. MCPS intends this to be a diagnostic system which can evaluate interventions and see which ones have been most effective and which ones have not. The MCPS system will be able to link to other general school data bases which the state program can not do.
3. There are 25 positions ($1.45 million) to support special education inclusion in the HS. Is this to address oversize classes in general or will it be targeted?
These positions will be targeted to HS's with lots of special education students and are not intended to address the larger issue of HS oversize classes. (I pointed out that MS's need some help here too.)
4. Ride by the Rules ($75,000 and 2.5 FTE)--what is this?
Although this shows an increase in 2.5 FTE, it does not represent an increase in the number of people; each bus driver will be paid for 30
minutes more per week. Right now this program exists in a few schools and next year it will be extended to all schools. Each bus driver (who handles routes for 3-4 schools) will go to each school approximately once per month for a thirty minute meeting/debriefing where they will report/discuss on issues/problems with buses, student behavior etc. Right now bus drivers have limited time to talk with school staff, and taking this time frequently makes them late for their next route.
5. There is $250,000 for increased security and violence intervention. What will this be spent on?
This money is a place holder (meaning they don't know yet) and MCPS would like input from MCCPTA and parents on how to spend the money. The current efforts with gangs and bullying are very uncoordinated and they are thinking of spending some money for a coordinator for these programs. MCPS has focused mainly on prevention through programs like Safe and
6. There is $711,000 in the budget for technology initiatives. What are these?
User support specialist in ES ($227,000 3 FTE)--Each ES currently gets 8 hours per week of user support specialist time. This will increase the allotment to 9 hours per week. This was in last year's budget and was cut by the Council. Much of this time is spent helping ES with the TCM (palm pilot assessment software). Each user support specialist currently serves 5 schools and MCPS would like each person to eventually handle only 4 schools (so each school would receive 10 hours of service per week).
Support Grading and Reporting ($192,000, 2 FTE)--This money is for computer programmers. MCPS uses a commercial system which needs to be
adapted and expanded to all schools. Currently the 17 ES which are piloting the new report card are using this system.
There is other money for technology which is not considered an initiative but rather an expansion of existing programs. For example, all HSs will get new software for the Stanford Diagnostic tests and other evaluative tools which are already in use at ES and MSs.
7. What is the monthly/annual cost of each PDA that all K-2 teachers are using and what are these costs for?
8. MCPS received funding for 15 ES assistant principals yet only hired 13 last year. Why? What will be the criteria for the 15 additional APs included in this year's budget?
15 was just a guestimate of how many they thought they would need. MCPS set certain criteria for allocating the 15 new positions last year and only 13 schools met the criteria. This year (probable criteria—not definite), schools with enrollments between 500-600 will get an AP. Most focus schools will get an AP if they don't already have one, although MCPS still has not decided whether focus schools with very small enrollments will get an AP.
9. Six ES special Education coordinators are being cut. Why and which schools will lose this position?
There are 6 coordinators at ES with learning centers. These schools will keep their coordinators.
are 6 coordinators at schools with large special education populations, these schools
will lose their coordinators because they already
got an AP last year, or will get an AP this year.
Follow-up question: I know that schools who have this position and an AP say both are needed because there is enough work for both people.
Everyone says they are busy.
10. IB programs and gifted programs are receiving $191,000. What is this money going towards?
Some of this money replaces grant money that was previously funding IB/GT programs. Some of it is for expanding existing programs into
additional grades. Schools receiving this funding are: College Gardens ES (for PYPIB); SSIMS, Newport Mill MS, Key MS (all MYP); Julius West, Westland MSs and RM, BCC, Watkins Mill HS. Clemente MS and Chevy Chase ES will get money for expansion.
Money for the Poolesville magnet which was proposed in the CIP has not yet been put into the operating budget and will be added before the BOE takes action on the operating budget.
11. Art/Music/PE are each receiving one FTE to reduce class ratios. Is this a meaningful reduction?
It is a small step to address scheduling problems in CSR schools.
12. There is money ($702,000) to offer assistance for teachers with assessments and other duties. What does this mean?
There is $300,000 for substitutes for kindergarten teachers so that teachers will have time to do the additional assessments they were asked to do this year.
$301.000 is for 12.5 FTE in teaching assistant positions. Every ES will get an allotment of a couple hours each week. This position is at a similar pay level to lunch room aides and the teaching assistants will be doing clerical work such as copying handouts, making packets etc.
13. There is a budget item, expansion of monitoring by directors of school performance ($198,000, 2 FTE). Is this an increase in the number of directors and if so which area will get an additional director?
This is funding for two new directors of school performance. Kevin Maxwell's area (
14. There are 18 building service workers added as an initiative and 40 for new schools. 40 positions for 1 HS and 4 ES seems like a lot
compared to current staffing levels. Are new schools getting more workers than existing schools?
No, the 40 FTE are for new schools and additions, so some of these positions are going to existing schools. All of these 40 positions are for new square footage, the other 18 are to go to schools which are not expanding in size.
14. There are many minor cuts such as a reduction of $138,000 in printing costs which will delay the availability of instructional guides (page 18 of fat budget book). Other items include $400,000 in summer stipends for progam development, $350,000 in development of online training modules, and $300,000 in ES core team training days. Given that staff have been complaining for several years that instructional materials are not ready with enough lead time is this particular cut wise and why is this being cut if you know it will have a negative effect?
MCPS was told by the County Council that if it wanted money for new initiatives that it had to show it was willing to cut other things. It
is true that the cut in printing funding will delay the availability of instructional materials. On the other hand, the cut in summer funding
for program development means that curriculum changes will take longer to develop so the delay in printing may not matter as much.
15. Is there a loss of a position in Real Estate Management?
No, this position is being transferred to the CIP.
16. The funding for textbooks is first reported to increase due to an inflation factor, then decrease due to decreasing enrollment, then cut. What's the real deal?
There is a reported increase in textbook funding per pupil of 6% to account for inflation in textbook prices. Secondly, since the number of general education students is declining, textbook funding will decrease because there are fewer students and the funding is done on a per pupil basis. Finally, the per pupil amount is being cut from the 6% inflation factor for the reason given in #14 above. There aren't really very many good textbooks out there to buy.
Followup Q: if you are proposing a cut in the inflation factor, why don't you just include a lower number to begin with? We wanted to show the full amount which would cover inflationary increases in textbook prices and then show that we were asking for less.
17. The HS initiative is an undefined item asking for $2.6 million.
What is MCPS thinking of doing with this money and how can people
comment during testimony if there are no details.
MCPS put the $2.6 million in because it figured it was better to ask for it with no details than to have to wait another year to make the changes. MCPS would like comments/input from MCCPTA right away regarding how it would like the money to be allocated.
Right now, the Superintendent is looking at three areas to include:
--reduction in over size classes (would only partially address this issue)
--intervention programs for students with difficulty reading
--extended day programs to address students with inelibility issues
among other things.
18. There is a $4.7 million reduction in FICA/self insurance. In October you told me this item would increase by $910,000. How can there e such a big change and what does it mean?
The reduction partly comes from a decrease in the experience rate (rate of prior claims), MCPS has been working on accident reduction programs
and these are taking effect and reducing claims.. Most of the reduction comes from a decrease in the amount the county is asking MCPS to pay (which was unknown in October). The County restored the risk management fund to solvency, in previous years MCPS and other agencies were paying more to make up for losses.
19. There is a pilot program (15.3 FTE) for MSs to implement an hours based special education staffing model. (This is a model where
special education programs are staffed based on the number of hours of service they are required to service students according to the students' IEPs rather than a fixed ratio of students to teachers.) Why are only two schools piloting this and how were these schools selected? Will this be expanded to other schools?
Forest Oaks MS and Silver Spring International MS were selected because they were two of the schools which did not make AYP (Comment--many
middle schools did not make AYP.) Between the two schools this initiative provides 7 FTE teachers and 8.3 FTE paraeducators. It will
be expensive to do this at every MS. MCPS will be evaluating the pilot program based on increases in student achievement and its effect on the
degree of inclusion to determine whether it will be expanded.
20. Another budget item is the special education Teaching Station Staffing Model (24.4 FTE total, 13 FTE teachers, 11.4 FTE paraeducators). What is this?
This is an initiative to ensure that each MS has at least 3.0 FTE special education teachers and each HS has at least 4 FTE special
education teachers for LAD and Resource students. It will increase staffing at mostly smaller downcounty schools which do not have large
numbers of special education students. The reason MCPS wants to have a minimum number of special education teachers at each school is to make
sure that it has teachers who are certified in special education and all the content areas. For example, if a school had only one special education teacher that teacher would have to have content certification in at least 4 content areas. Adding more staff allows special education teachers to specialize in one or two content areas, and in HSs means that the teachers don't have to teach all grade levels either.
21. There are 2 FTE professional growth consultants added. Since MCPS has already put more than half their teachers through the skillful teacher training, why do they need to add more staff?
These 2 positions are to conduct a professional growth program for supporting services personnel--they will not be training teachers.
22. Some principals have suggested that the professional growth consultants case load of 16 teachers seems light since the consultants
often only show up at the new teacher's school one to two hours per month. Why is this the caseload?
The consultants are supposed to observe each teacher 2-3 times per month. If principals feel that the consultant is not doing his/her job, they can speak to the person in charge of the program.
23. HS/MS LAD staffing is too be increased by 38.75 FTE. This will return MCPS to the student/staff ratios of the 90's. This money was also in the FY02 budget--what happened?
Yes, the same item was funded in FY02 to return the LAD programs to 90's staffing levels. However, over time the ratios gradually crept up as well as there being 400 LAD students over projection. It is hard to find special education teachers.
24. What does is the special education Parent Outreach System?
25. I'm surprised that in spite of the high level of support at the forums there is so little for translation/interpretation services and not anything that is school based. Why?
MCPS is adding 4 communication specialists (translators), 1 FTE secretary, and .5 FTE data operator to translate more publications into
other languages. This is a change from contracting out those services. MCPS found that often the translated documents had to be redone within MCPS because the contactors did not understand the educational language and jargon (Do English speaking parents understand this either??????). These positions will all be central-office based. Jane Bulter in charge of developing a plan for increasing the number of school based personnel.
Follow-up: you told me earlier that MCPS was studying how to bring school based personnel on board. Since so many parents and staff think
that there needs to be someone at their schools who can communicate with non-English speaking parents, I don't know why you are still studying
this rather than doing something right away. For example, for the same amount of money that you are spending on teaching assistants to copy
handouts (300K) you could give each principal 2-3 hours per week of a bilingual person who could make phone calls to parents, translate
in-school things like principals' letters, and also be available for parents to call in to. This would not need to be someone with teaching skills.
Principals wouldn't support that.
Follow-up: Why wouldn't principals want someone in their school a few hours a week to communicate with parents?
Well, a teaching assistant would actually be doing some real work. These people wouldn't be doing anything.
Follow-up: I think making calls and translating and offering an opportunity for parents to speak to someone at the school is real work.
Well, it doesn't seem so. They wouldn't actually be doing anything.
Follow-up: If you value home-school communication you would think that providing that service is actually working.
We would never be able to find people to do that.
Follow-up: Why not, you are suggesting that principals find someone to copy papers for 2-3 hours per week? Many lunch aides are parents,
these parents might also be able to provide translations and make phone calls too.
You don't understand. Those people aren't available to work at schools. They are too busy working 2-3 jobs and taking care of their kids. It wouldn't work and principals wouldn't want someone at their school who isn't doing a real job..
26. What are the costs of operating summer remedial programs? Does tuition cover the costs?
HS students in regular summer school courses (such as health) pay tuition that covers the whole cost. Remedial programs are not fully funded by fees.
Middle school students pay nominal amounts for the summer school programs which were formerly covered by grants.
27. Is the cost of summer school or after school programs affected by the use of HS students earning SSL hours?
Not really since each group still needs a teacher.
28. How many schools offer remedial academic programs?
All Title One ES offer ELO programs. MSs and HS offer extended year programs. Some special education students have ESY programs.
All MS and HS are offering extended day classes this year. There was a One Pass Challenge program in the 6 poorest middle schools;
the state did not fund that program this year.
Jane de Winter
MCCPTA Operating Budget Chair.
January 5, 2007