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Boundaries Education policy Montgomery County Uncategorized

Why should Montgomery County consider changes to school boundaries?

Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville.
  1. What’s wrong with the current setup of Montgomery County Public Schools? The current school boundaries are outdated and often illogical. They have led to wasteful spending to expand schools, often in the wealthiest areas of the county, while forcing older schools to wait many years for renovation or replacement.The last countywide boundary change happened in the 1980s, when MCPS closed more than 60 schools as enrollment dropped to about 90,000 and the county population was about 600,000. Today, the population is 1.2 million and growing. School enrollment has surged to more than 165,000, while boundaries remain largely unchanged. 
  2. Why shouldn’t we just spend money to fix aging schools? Our resources are not infinite. A school system with a growing population and serious crowding issues should not simultaneously have schools operating at well below capacity. But in recent years, boundaries have only been changed when new schools opened.  As a result, some schools are at more than 150 percent of capacity with up to 14 portable classrooms at a single school, even when there is space at nearby schools. Check out this interactive map to see for yourself.
  3. Why would we want to put more kids on buses? The status quo does not do a good job of providing walkable schools for our children. It results in many families being farther away from their children’s schools than they should be: Among non-magnet students, 37% of elementary students, 45% of middle school students and 38% of high school students do not attend the closest school, according to MCPS data. 
  4. Isn’t it expensive to make big changes to the system? A systematic boundary assessment is fiscally responsible. We simply do not have the wherewithal to avoid this study,  as the impact of avoiding a system-wide boundary assessment for more than 30 years has been a poor use of taxpayer dollars. MCPS houses 10,000 students in more than 400 portables, at a cost of $5 million per year. At the same time, MCPS has a $790 million backlog of systemwide repair and maintenance needs. Other school districts, such as neighboring Howard County, Fairfax County, and Baltimore County have performed boundary analyses as a matter of fiscal responsibility.  School officials have proposed $1.82 billion in capital improvements without a clear plan to raise the money. While the state has promised a big funding increase, any increase will need to be matched by Montgomery County. That means we need to use our money wisely.
  5. How big is this problem?  Our schools are overcrowded by nearly 11,000 students in about half the schools and face under-enrollment of more than 9,300 in the other half. The mismatch at the school level has been persistent for years. In some parts of the county, overcrowded schools have caused county planners to put a temporary hold on approving much-needed new housing, which puts further pressure on an already expensive and tight housing market.
  6. Why should we consider racial and socioeconomic diversity? Our schools are becoming more racially and socioeconomically segregated. Even when a school is integrated, programming, courses, and activities tend to be racially and socioeconomically segregated. 
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By One Montgomery

We are committed to school equity as a means for creating a stronger community.

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