Lagging Staff Salaries Contributed to Large Increase in Funding Recommended by FCPS | Education


Frederick County Public Schools Acting Superintendent Mike Markoe presented a recommended budget for fiscal year 2023 that represents by far the largest increase in requested funding in recent years.

Markoe’s spending plan, presented at a school board meeting this week, totals more than $836 million — a nearly 20% jump from what former superintendent Terry Alban recommended last year. last.

Although Alban presented a $701 million budget last January, she ended up getting more than $765 million thanks to an unprecedented influx of federal and state coronavirus relief funds. Still, Markoe’s claim represents an increase of about $71 million over that figure.

The rise is coming from a few different places, said school board chairman Brad Young: Continued enrollment growth and new requirements from a sweeping bill are among the contributing factors.

Additionally, Young said, the budget request represents a sort of philosophical shift in the district’s financial approach.

“The budgets we’ve requested in the past weren’t what we needed but what we could expect,” Young said. “People asked us to be more realistic.”

Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association, put it simply: “They ask for what the system needs, not what they think they will get.”

Markoe’s budget spending — which will be refined for the next five months before reaching its final stage — currently exceeds projected revenue by about $41 million. Since state and federal funding are largely fixed, it would be up to Frederick County to account for this difference. Young said the board is well aware it will have to make cuts.

“Ultimately, we’ll have to adapt to the funding they provide,” Young said.

But even if the request isn’t realistic, it “does the school system no good” to ask for a number far below what it needs, Dirks said.

“Even if we don’t get everything we ask for, if the public thinks we’re getting everything we need because that’s all we asked of them, we’re wrongly communicating to the community that we have the resources we need,” she said.

And items that inflate the budget are reasonable requests, Dirks added.

“I know some people look at this and say, ‘Wow, that’s a massive budget,'” she said. “But they ask for things that we should have had from the start. There is nothing in this budget that is, like, a pie in the sky.

The biggest factor, Young said, is a pool of $23.5 million that will go towards staff salary increases. FCPS staff remain among the lowest paid in the state, and as part of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — a massive education reform bill that passed in Annapolis last year — the district is required to start giving them raises.

The Blueprint will require all teachers in Maryland to have a starting salary of $60,000 by 2026. FCPS’s current starting salary is approximately $50,000.

Additionally, the district has “me too” language in its employee contracts, which means that if it gives a raise to members of one of the three unions representing its workers, the other two groups will also receive a raise. . This means that the district will also have to increase compensation for support workers and administrators.

The Blueprint also requires districts to provide increases of $10,000 to all National Board-certified teachers and an additional $7,000 to NBC teachers who work in designated low-performing schools.

“The good thing about this is that it’s going to force us to do it, which will put us on par with other counties,” Young said. “But it’s going to be painful to get there.”

Years of bare minimum funding from the previous county administration “put [the school board] in a huge hole, and we tried to dig out,” Young said. Although County Executive Jan Gardner has always given the district more than it is legally required to, it hasn’t been enough to compensate for several years of stagnant salaries and a budget that has remained virtually flat despite the inflation.

“Ninety-nine percent of all new funding we’ve gotten over the past 10 years has gone toward trying to maintain fair compensation for our employees,” Young said. “And we didn’t do that very well.”

FCPS’s relatively low salary created “significant problems in filling positions and keeping people on board,” Young said. District central office staff have not kept pace with student body growth, and Markoe’s budget includes a 19.4% increase in administrative funding to try to address the problem.

The recommended budget takes into account a $37 million increase in state funding resulting from increased enrollment. But other Blueprint demands, ongoing pandemic-related struggles, and $9.3 million worth of special education reform — some of which were mandated by a recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Health Justice regarding the district’s illegal use of solitary confinement and restraint against students with disabilities – increased spending.

“We certainly hope the county executive continues to be good to us as she has been for the past seven years,” Young said. “It’s going to have a huge impact on how much will stay in the budget.”


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