High-needs students should be a priority regardless of MCPS’ budget

County Executive Ike Leggett’s $4.9 billion 2015 budget is out today. Included is a proposal to give MCPS $2.08 billion, an increase of $80 million from the previous year.

However, it’s still $15 million less than the school system asked for. In a letter to Leggett, Superintendent Joshua Starr and school board president Phil Kauffman say the difference between their request and his proposal would affect programs for high-needs students:

“Those funds were specifically targeted to benefit our most vulnerable students by, among other things, reducing class sizes in high-need high schools, improving services to English Language Learners, adding prekindergarten classes, expanding community partnerships that serve students and families, and hiring more counselors and student support staff.”

Over half of the school system’s low-income students are in the Northeast and Downcounty consortia and in a handful of Upcounty clusters, Gaithersburg, Seneca Valley, and Watkins Mill. These schools aren’t performing as well as those in more affluent parts of the county, because their students come with greater needs.

Closing the achievement gap between these schools and the rest of MCPS is integral to our school system’s and our county’s continued success. That means making programs to serve high-needs students a priority no matter what.

Some of the programs Dr. Starr has recommended to serve these schools sound promising. But MCPS already makes up nearly half of the county’s total budget, and our highest-need students shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip to raise the school system’s budget.

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