Monday, February 22, 2010

Weast: Graduation Not Included

You might think that in Montgomery County Public Schools high school graduation ceremonies would be included at the end of a successful public school education.

Sure, MCPS has the highest per pupil spending in the State of Maryland.
Sure, the MCPS budget if over $2.3 billion.

But Superintendent Jerry Weast doesn't believe that students should be rewarded for earning a high school diploma with a graduation ceremony.

So Superintendent Weast doesn't fully fund graduation ceremonies. 

Many MCPS high schools use DAR Constitution Hall for their graduation ceremony. The rental of that facility is $5,700 per graduation.

Superintendent Weast has stopped paying the full rental cost for DAR.
On April 17, 2009, Superintendent Weast told the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee* that he wasn't going to fully fund the rental of DAR Constitution Hall for 2010 graduations.  He said he would only fund $5,000 of the $5,700 cost of the rental cost for 2010 graduations.
See "Program Reduction and Efficiencies" on Page 14 of the packet given to the Council's Education Committee.

And in January, Montgomery Blair's student newspaper Silver Chips reported that Superintendent Weast may cut even the partial $5,000 rental payment and only pay $3,400 of the rental costs for June 2010 graduations.
...Lafen estimated that graduating at DAR will cost Blair $6,000 beyond the $5,000 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) allocates to reduce the burden of graduation expenses. Based on these figures, he predicted that seniors will have to contribute about $10 in senior dues in addition to money collected for cap and gowns. Lafen warned, however, that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast has proposed budget cuts that could further increase senior dues. "Just in the last couple of days, Mr. Williams [Blair's principal] was given notice that MCPS may cut graduation funding by $1,600," he said...

How will MCPS high schools pay for the rental of DAR Constitution Hall this year?

Seniors will be taxed.

It's called "senior dues" and it is a fee at many high schools that is required for MCPS seniors to graduate.

The "senior graduation fee" isn't discussed or voted on by the Board of Education, and isn't authorized by the State Board of Education, or the Maryland legislature.

Is it legal? Doubt it. But if you want your child to have a graduation ceremony you better pay up.

Don't count on any elected officials to stand up for your child's right to a free public education including a graduation ceremony. Local and state officials have ignored the illegal curricular fees still being charged by MCPS, and remember that the County Council already approved Superintendent Weast's underfunding of the DAR/Constitution Hall rental fee for 2010 graduations.

*County Council's Education Committee:  Valerie Ervin, Chair, Mike Knapp and Phil Andrews.


  1. Go back to the tradition of holding graduation on the football field. If it is good enough for Damascus then its good enough for the other high schools. And its free.

  2. I have to agree with Anonymous.

    Just how do we expect the Board of Ed and County Council to balance a budget if we object to elimination of a rather expensive venue for a ceremony that has no actual educational value.

    If seniors refuse to pay for their nostalgic moment, why should taxpayers value such memories more than they?

    Diplomas could be mailed home like final report cards, is a ceremony on the football field so much more devoid of meaning that we would do without 100+ textbooks per school or equivalent expense with more lasting effects?

  3. @ William Jacobs

    You mean some students. Students at all MCPS high schools don't have to pay for graduation. That's because the bulk of the "senior dues" is the creation of a slush fund for the local school. Most of the money raised has nothing to do with the graduation ceremony.

    Churchill HS and Magruder HS, to name two, don't charge for graduation.

    Bottom line is that this free public school event is being used to extort funds from families. Is that legal?


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