Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

Montgomery Delegation Urges School System To Be More Realistic On Budget Requests

Written by  Donna Broadway

ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Delegation is telling the Montgomery County school system to “be realistic” about their budget requests. At a recent meeting between the state delegation and the Board of Education members, District 15 Delegate Kathleen Dumais called reports that the state delegation failed to help MCPS receive money for school construction “false.”

“I do not doubt the money is needed and required but I also wanted to be really honest and I want to make sure everyone knows what we’re facing. I read the press release and there is something missing that is stark: Montgomery County got $39 million in school construction money. You don’t mention that and that’s unfair,” Dumais said. “We constantly hear ‘the state delegation isn’t strong and doesn’t bring enough money back.’ That doesn’t help when we go to Annapolis and all we hear from the county council and members of the school board is that Montgomery County doesn’t have a strong delegation. That’s not correct, cut it out.”

The county school system is asking for an additional $223 million to help build additional schools and expand current schools. Superintendent Joshua Starr said MCPS is the fastest-growing school system and enrollment is expected to increase by 11,000 students by the 2020-2021 school year. The school system is currently using 404 portable classrooms to aid in the overcrowding and recently opened one new school and reopened two renovated schools.

Dr. Starr said the county is only asking for the bonding order, not the actual funds.

“I do think that with the Baltimore City deal that was made a couple years ago and understanding that the deal needed to be made, there is an expectation that the delegation in Annapolis can do something if it chooses to … I think we have to help our community understand what is possible and what the reality is and what we can do in that realm of possibilities and how we will collectively push the agenda because while we understand the realities, we also are not asking for Annapolis for money, we are asking for the bonding order,” Starr said.

District 16 Delegate Ariana Kelly echoed Dumais’ sentiments, saying the delegation sounds like “jealous babies” when citing the $1 billion school construction funding package Baltimore City received in 2013 as a reason for MCPS to receive more funds.

“When we go into Annapolis, we sound like jealous babies because Baltimore has better political timing than us and bigger balls than us to get what they wanted at the right time and we didn’t or we couldn’t, whatever you’re seeing it as. We’re coming in later, at a much worse political time in a terrible political climate with this huge budget shortfall and a mandate from voters across the state to roll back taxes, we need to frame it in a way that sounds better than what you said to us when we walked into this room,” Kelly said.  “I think when you make it narrow, it’s not that ridiculous but we need to find a way to talk about it that sounds narrow, specific, and we need to talk about what you need to give up in exchange to get it … the message we’re getting in this room is going to fall on deaf ears when we get to Annapolis.”

In spite of the exchange, BOE member Shirley Brandman said the BOE and the state delegation continue to maintain an amiable relationship.

“We try to stand up together at all levels of the county to make those messages work so we totally hear you. Last year the way it got crafted was that there was a lot of deliberation in asking what the best way forward is. We tried to stand up together at all levels of the county and obviously we were hoping it was going to go through. The challenge for us is that we put out the genuine need – the enrollment is undeniable and the pressure that it puts on our students is undeniable and so the unmet need is something that we have to deal with,” Brandman said.

Starr said The Montgomery County delegation and MCPS need to work together to designate who will deliver the school system’s message of increased school funding.

“The challenge and opportunity we have is figuring out who is getting the message to whom and when to have the impact so the misperception about what we want doesn’t get spread. That’s a strategic question, that’s part of the critical strategy conversation so the right people are in the right place at the right time to do just that,” Starr said.

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