Even though the Montgomery County Council approved a historically high amount of funds to Montgomery County Public Schools in next year’s operating budget, the school district is faced with making difficult budget decisions due to inflation, higher projected enrollment and salary increases.
“Rest assured that what happened [with the budget] this year has consequences, and those consequences affect the most vulnerable members of our community,” school board member Grace Rivera-Oven said at a May 25 board meeting. “I’m hopeful that next year, we’re going to be able to do better.”
That same day, the council allocated $3.165 billion to the school district—nearly half of all tax-supported funds included in the county’s new budget. While it’s the most money MCPS has ever received from the county, the approved budget is still $74.3 million less than the Board of Education’s initial February request.
The school district anticipates 162,472 new students will enroll next school year—a 2,000-student increase over the current school year’s official enrollment numbers, according to MCPS spokesperson Aisha Mbowe. She added that MCPS does not disaggregate special education students or English as a Second Language (ESL) students in its enrollment data.
“For me, we cannot increase class size, we need to address math and literacy needs, and [we need to] increase staffing in special education and ESL,” school board member Julie Yang (Dist. 3) wrote to MoCo360 when asked about the budget concerns.
Further complicating matters is the September 2025 expiration date on one-time federal grants MCPS received to help recover from COVID-19 learning loss and other related obstacles—aid totaling $387.2 million through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER).
MCPS will be dipping into its ESSER money to temporarily fund high-priority budget items not fully funded by the council’s approved budget, according to officials. To do that, the district will have to reduce or eliminate budget items previously funded by ESSER. According to documents, these items will include:
- Social emotional learning curriculum
- Food service for summer school
- Virtual academy resources
- Out-of-school time
- Professional development opportunities
- Fiscal Year 2025 summer school
The school board also recently announced that it’s shifting back to a pre-pandemic policy of offering summer school on an invitation-only basis, with spokesperson Jessica Baxter citing the “winding down” of ESSER funds as a key factor.
Despite these budget difficulties, the school board has pledged not to increase class sizes next school year and to honor full funding for negotiated agreements with its three employee associations—a topic of hot debate in recent months, including multiple press events and a civil disruption by the MCPS teachers union pushing for higher salaries.
Superintendent Monifa McKnight said during a recent work session that the school district will not reduce its efforts to recruit additional staff, support ELS students and bolster math and literacy instruction in the face of a documented post-pandemic plummet in proficiency.
However, other budget areas are at risk of being reduced or eliminated. “Out of necessity, some things must go,” McKnight said during the work session.
Key areas where the school board is considering cutting funds include summer school, extracurricular activities, outdoor education and food service, according to school board documents. During the most recent budget discussion, school board president Karla Silvestre (At-large) expressed grim concern about the number of cuts being made.
“While this is a gloomy day because we have so many cuts we’re making and such a difficult year coming up, we’re going to make the best of every penny. Our students are counting on it,” she said.
The school board is anticipated to take a final vote on next year’s operating budget June 6.