BALTIMORE COUNTY — Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) Interim Superintendent Verletta White proposed her $2.38 billion budget for fiscal year 2020 (FY2020) to the Board of Education on Jan. 8, which included a hefty request to continue funding staffing and resource programs to ensure student and educator success.
The People for our People initiative that White promoted last year isn’t the only focus for the sweeping budget, which spans 175 schools and more than 113,000 students. White’s 328-page funding proposal promises to be “forward moving, focused and together” and includes a comprehensive drill down in each of the following areas: special education and English learners; reading and mathematics literacy and career readiness programming; growth and infrastructure; transportation; and school climate and safety.
The draft budget also boasts a realignment of early grade technology standards and accepted instructional devices which White claims will save the school district at least $15 million over the next three years and reduce screen time for the district’s youngest learners.
“Our annual budget not only represents the needs expressed by our community, it also clearly moves us forward to support high-quality daily instruction,” said White. “We are a learning organization, and we will continue to consider adjustments that serve our goals of equity and access for everyone one of our nearly 114,000 students.”
White also said she looked forward to public comment and future work sessions before the operating budget adoption vote on Feb. 5. She named her budget presentation “Balancing Our Priorities.”
A separate capital budget was also included in the proposal. The Board — which has been sworn in for just over one month and faces significant issues with public trust — will vote on this measure on Jan. 22. The county’s council will vote on the capital measure in May, in order for funding to become available at the start of the fiscal year.
Local relevant highlights of the proposed budget include:
- A continuation of the pilot program launched in fiscal year 2017 that provides all students at Dundalk High School and Dundalk Middle School with free meals, regardless of their eligibility for free and reduced meals.
- Requests for funding from the state for continued limited renovations at Patapsco and Woodlawn High Schools. Patapsco High School has previously received an allocation of $11.9 million from the state, and BCPS is requesting the additional amount of $6.7 million needed to complete the project.
- Requests for state and county funding for replacement schools for: Dundalk Elementary School totaling more than $16.5 million; Colgate Elementary totaling more than $13.5 million; and Berkshire Elementary for nearly $15 million.
- A $2.3 million roof replacement for Holabird Middle School.
- A state-funded $2 million air conditioning replacement at Charlesmont Elementary.
“This budget is a continuation and reflection on the superintendent’s People for Our People campaign,” Zone 2 Community Superintendent George Roberts told The Eagle on Tuesday. “It’s really focused on increasing support for people such as teachers, administrators, students and parents — people at the schoolhouse level.”
Roberts praised the proposed budget from both an academic and capital project standpoint, saying the measure encompasses White’s vision, but also includes “the voice from all the stakeholders in the county.”
Academically, the school official voiced enthusiasm about expansion of Career and Technology Education programs coming to Dundalk and the rest of the area. “With Tradepoint Atlantic coming in and following up on the Southeast Advisory Task Force, I’m excited to see what further opportunities there are for Dundalk — Dundalk Middle School, Sollers Point Technical High School, Dundalk High School and the Sparrow’s Point community.”
From the capital project side, Roberts says he’s “really excited” about the opening of the new Dundalk Elementary School, but also says it’s important not to forget the new schools opening at Berkshire and Colgate, as well. “Those [two] projects are about a year behind,” he said. “And I think it’s important to remember those three major projects. Outside of Dundalk, there are also exciting projects going on.” Roberts mentioned two new school constructions in Notthingham as examples.
At the Jan. 8 board meeting in Towson, White stressed that the budget presentation was not a time for questions and answers, and proposed break-out meetings with her and other stakeholders.
“We have well over a month to work through the budget together, she said. “We have a large school system, and we have a budget to match that.”
White praised staff, community and students for helping create a budgeting process that is “not only forward-thinking and fiscally responsible, but child centered, inclusive and responsive to needs.”
She also noted that Dundalk native and Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. had engaged in conversations with her about BCPS’s budget. “We have the support of not only the community but also our elected officials who know and understand the importance of a high quality educational program,” she said.
Revenue sources for the FY2020 budget include $1,316,897,443 — or 55.4 percent — from Baltimore County. Maryland state funding represents 36.9 percent of BCPS funding, contributing $876,359,227. Federal funding for BCPS’s FY2020 budget is 5.1 percent of the $2.3 billion, with contributions of $121,756,577.
The proposed FY2020 general fund appropriation in the operating budget reflects an 8.1 percent increase — equaling $123.2 million — over the previous year’s budget, which officials say is primarily driven by an increase in state funding.
Baltimore County Public Schools represent the twenty-fifth largest public school system in the United States, and has been consistently recognized for meritorious budgeting and excellence in its budget preparation.
The public comment session about the BCPS FY2020 budget occurred concurrent to press time. A follow-up report with highlights will appear in next week’s Dundalk Eagle and on or before Friday at www.dundalkeagle.com.