As Carroll County Public Schools officials continued discussions Wednesday on preliminary plans for next year’s budget, Superintendent Cynthia McCabe reiterated her concern that funding formulas in the state’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan will negatively affect county schools.
“My largest concern is that the unrestricted funding that we can use across the system for all students is not going to be enough for every school to function in a successful way,” McCabe said. “It’s certainly not going to be able to function the way it does now — there’s no way that all schools will have the number of resources that they have today.”
The Blueprint’s goal of promoting equity in schools is noble, McCabe said, but it would be more useful from a budgetary perspective for the Carroll County system to distribute funds without the restrictive nature of Blueprint’s formula.
McCabe met with the board of education and representatives from county government to discuss the funding dilemma.
The school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 8 to adopt McCabe’s preliminary fiscal 2024 school system budget.
Her proposed budget is $37.7 million higher than the fiscal 2023 budget for Carroll County Public Schools. The increase includes $15.9 million for employee salaries, $3 million for Blueprint requirements, $2.8 million due to inflation, $2.1 million for transportation costs, $1.4 million for increased substitute teacher rates and $1.3 million increase in staffing.
It also includes $11.2 million in state funding, which is earmarked for programs that support compensatory education students (those whose family incomes make them eligible for the Free and Reduced-price Meals Program).
McCabe and the board of education are asking county government officials to make up the difference in the funding gap, to the tune of $13.4 million. The county commissioners have pledged half that amount so far, but Carroll County Commissioners’ President Ed Rothstein, who was in attendance Wednesday, said it is too early to say whether the county will fully fund the extra $6.7 million in the superintendent’s proposed budget.
“At this time it’s premature, it really is … because we, the Board of County Commissioners, have not come together to even begin our operational budget,” Rothstein said. “I can’t speculate on [the county budget], but what I can tell you factually is that the board of education and the Board of County Commissioners will work together on doing what’s best for Carroll County.”
Under Blueprint, funding based on the number of compensatory education students must be spent on a school level in a way that benefits those students. In practice, the allocation of those funds is likely to mean reduced class sizes and increased intervention/tutoring staff for schools with higher concentrations of compensatory education students, McCabe said.
“If I could do that now I would be doing it,” McCabe said. “I believe in that so much that if I had extra resources right now, I would definitely strategically put it in certain schools that are struggling more and offer more services to our students, but we are we are bone thin everywhere. We don’t have any extra staff or services that I can move from one place to another without drastically affecting the place that I’m pulling it from.
“I don’t want anyone to think that we don’t believe that there are students who could use extra services and that we wouldn’t like to provide that. If we had that we would be doing it now.”
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Board of Education President Marsha Herbert said if difficult decisions must be made and the school board must make cuts in its budget, funding security staff should be among the board’s top priorities to keep.
“The first thing I look at is security,” Herbert said. “Our employees have to be safe, our children have to be safe, and we have one person doing security. I want more educators, I want more aids, but we cannot continue with just one person in that security department full-time.”
The school system budget will officially be presented to commissioners in April and final approval of the superintendent’s fiscal 2024 budget is set for May 10, according to the CCPS website.
During Wednesday’s meeting, one person spoke during the public participation portion. Carroll County Career and Technology Center biomedical sciences instructor Brendan Gallagher expressed his concern regarding what changes in the operating budget would mean for the career and technology center.
Anyone who wishes to speak during the public participation portion of a meeting can request to do so by filling out an online sign-up form at https://www.carrollk12.org/board-of-education/meeting-information or calling the communications office at 410-751-3020 on Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education and budget meetings are open to the public and will be livestreamed on the CCPS YouTube channel and are viewable on the right side of the Board of Education’s website at carrollk12.org/board-of-education/meeting-information, under CETV Livestream. Meetings are also broadcast live throughout the month on Carroll Educational Television, Channel 21.