Active Montgomery County parents aired their concerns over next year’s schools budget and the implementation of Curriculum 2.0 at Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s first Community Day Town Hall.
Parents expressed worries about everything from the lack of paraeducators and the reduced number of music teachers to how students can accelerate in math under the rollout of curriculum standards aimed at meeting Common Core State Standards.
Starr said he couldn’t get into the details of the budget before it goes to the Board of Education on Dec. 11, but he did say the school system would have to “make some very difficult decisions” if the county minimally funds education the coming fiscal year.
The Board of Education and the Montgomery County Council don’t see eye-to-eye on how the school system has been spending its money. And in October, the county Office of Legislative Oversight released a report saying public safety, transportation and aid to needy families could be at risk because of Maryland’s maintenance of effort law and the school system’s decision to grant raises to teachers and other employees. Public schools make up about half of Montgomery’s $4 billion operating budget.
The back-and-forth between Montgomery public schools and the county council will likely heat up in the months ahead as both bodies prepare budgets for the coming fiscal year.
Starr said parents should brace themselves for budget realities.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Starr told parents Thursday night at the Town Hall at Shady Grove Middle School. “We’re not going to be able to do everything for everyone.”
Starr spent much of the evening fielding parents’ questions over the implementation of Curriculum 2.0. Many parents agreed the rigor of the new standards were good, but had concerns that gifted math students would be left behind being taught in small groups in a single classroom.
Parents worried that teaching all students with varying skills in one class amounts to “one-size-fits-all” education. Starr, however, said that small-group instruction differentiating students with different skills has worked for years in reading classes.
Starr said principals will have the power to make adjustments for acceleration based on student needs and what they see going on at their schools. But parents still continued to press the matter, hoping for more details.
“We are not eliminating acceleration,” Starr said.
The Town Hall was the culmination of a day Starr spent meeting teachers, students and principals in Damascus, Gaithersburg, Magruder and Watkins Mill clusters. Starr will hold five more Community Days visiting the remaining community school clusters. The next Community Day will cover the Downcounty Consortium on Dec. 13 with a 7:30 p.m. Town Hall at Albert Einstein High School.