2010 Letter to the MCPS Board of Education

On January 19, 2010, the Magnet Foundation Board sent a letter to the MCPS Board of Education:

Dear Board Members,

We urge you to consider the students and teachers of Montgomery County’s special programs as you work on the FY 2011 MCPS Operating Budget.  The county’s Magnet, IB, and other special programs have been hit hard by budget cuts over the past several years and may not be able to survive additional cuts.

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2011 Operating Budget includes one direct cut to the County’s special programs:  On page 1-26, the Superintendent recommends a cut of 5.0 teaching positions (FTE) from high school special programs (pdf).   There were only 50.6 special programs teaching positions in FY 2010, and the Superintendent is proposing to cut nearly 10% of the teachers.  This is the largest proportional cut to any teaching category in the budget, and it is difficult to understand why the Superintendent wants to cut 10% of special programs teachers when only cutting 2.5% of other high school teachers.  The magnitude of this proposed cut must be considered in the context of past budgets.  Last year, MCPS cut 13.2 teaching positions from high school special programs.  The previous year, 8.4 positions were cut.  See FY 2008 budget on page 1-14 (pdf).

   FY 2006 - FY 2008
 FY 2009
 FY 2010
FY 2011
(proposed)

 AD Teacher, Special Programs Support
 70.4      
 AD Teacher, Special Programs
  63.8
50.6
45.6

As seen in the table above, the Superintendent’s proposed cuts would represent a cumulative cut of almost 25 teaching positions over the past three years, representing more than 35% of the special programs teachers that had been in the county in 2006, 2007, and 2008.  No other part of the MCPS budget has been hit this hard, and the county’s special programs are suffering.  The Board of Education must not approve these cuts, and you must send a message to the Superintendent that the special programs are a valuable part of the county curriculum that should not be cut every year.

The past budget reductions have already affected many special programs.  At Eastern Middle School, the school day has been shortened to seven periods, making it impossible for magnet students to participate in music while taking foreign language classes.  At Takoma Park and Roberto Clemente Middle School, magnet teachers have continued to teach an eight period schedule without commensurate compensation.  At Montgomery Blair, teachers are paid for eighth period with extracurricular stipends.  Teachers in all magnet programs have been asked to teach additional classes to cover for cuts to the teaching staff.  With this heavier load, teachers are offering less help outside of class, and it has become a greater burden to sponsor academic clubs and teams.  The strain on teachers is increasing each year, and the special programs may not survive further cuts.

The additional cuts proposed in the Superintendent’s “Potential Budget Reductions” are so drastic that they could mean the end of the county’s special programs (pdf).  A reduction of 12.9 teaching positions  would mean eliminating 50% of special program teaching positions over the past three years.  Reducing stipends for secondary school extracurricular activities  would threaten academic teams and could mean the end of the eighth period day at Montgomery Blair.  Eliminating transportation for special programs  would cut off students who could not afford their own transportation.  You must realize that adopting any of these cuts would effectively destroy the magnet programs.

Some may believe that magnet students could succeed without these special programs, but the students, parents, and alumni of these programs disagree.  The BOE heard some of these voices at the Community Forum on October 15, 2009.  Noemie Kedei, mother of a tenth grader, testified that:

Without the magnet program some of these students might get the education they needed but it is very unlikely that they would fill even a single classroom at any school. If the majority of children in a school have other priorities and interests, the academically oriented children might be stigmatized, considered weird, “nerds”. These children do not deserve to be intimidated or ostracized just because they are more focused or harder working.

Dipak Oza, father of a twelfth grader and an alumna, explained, “The unique nature of the Magnet Programs is an immense incentive to live in Montgomery County, and without proper funding, it will not continue to draw the best and brightest students.”
   
Last week, twelve Blair Magnet students were named semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search.  Two teams of magnet students finished first and second at the Maryland Science Bowl.  It may be easy to take these results for granted because Montgomery County seems to win these honors every year.  But these accomplishments are the result of a lot hard work by teachers, administrators, and special programs to support these gifted students.  Budget cuts threaten this success and would take opportunities away from students to learn and achieve to the best of their abilities.
   
The Math/Science/Computer Science Magnet Program opened its doors at Montgomery Blair twenty-five years ago, and Blair’s success led Montgomery County to develop Middle School Magnets, IB Programs, Highly Gifted Elementary Centers, Consortia, and Signature Programs.  In the past few years, MCPS has been turning its back on these special programs by cutting their budgets far out of proportion to other expenses.  Please, stop these cuts and help us keep these special programs special.

Sincerely,

    Ted Jou ’99   
    Magnet Foundation Secretary, on behalf of the
    Montgomery Blair High School Magnet Foundation Board of Directors

cc (via e-mail): Superintendent Weast, Montgomery County Council

See a pdf copy of this letter.