Thursday, April 14, 2011

WTOP: Ervin: Schools budget unfair to other Montgomery workers

...Ervin also talked about what she said is an imbalance in the county budget, skewed toward public schools. Other public departments' budgets are being slashed, she said, leading to cuts in libraries, public safety and parks and recreation.
However, the school system, which employs two thirds of county employees, has a steadily increasing budget, Ervin said...

From the interview:
Council President Valerie Ervin,
"I think what's happening in Montgomery County is that the real truth about the budget out the mouths of Jerry Weast and the school board is actually wrong.   
The proposed budget for Montgomery County Public Schools has not been cut.  As a matter of fact, what's happening here is that Jerry Weast is really causing a lot of hysteria among parents in the County system that there are going to be these draconian cuts made. And the fact of the matter is that the budget that Ike Leggett has proposed to the County Council is 3.5% over what it was last year."  


  1. Perhaps what Ms. Ervin meant to say is that the proposed budget for Montgomery County Public schools has not been cut yet. The county council has until May to do that. She just left that last word out. Having attended every single budget forum, I can say with some confidence, that the Office of Legislative oversight report recommended some harsh cuts in employee compensation, with the most drastic cuts reserved for MCPS employees. These cuts to employee compensation will worsen conditions for students as our bestand brightest teachers flee the school system.

  2. Gloria,

    You attended all of the County Council hearings last week? All 5 and heard what President Ervin said at each one? She had a statement that she read.

  3. You do realize that enrollment is going up in MCPS, right? Staff is being cut, programs are being slashed, but enrollment is still going up, which would necessitate extra funding. Ms. Sartucci, I am an MCPS employee and I would welcome your request for a more transparent budget. I don't see that we, the hardworking teachers of MCPS, have anything to hide from the public. However, I question your approach. Must you be so rude to the beleaguered professionals who come on here to try and defend themselves from what they see as an attack? Criticising the "excessive" salaries and benefits we earn, or posting comments from others who do so, see to indicate that you agree with this position. That is very unfortunate, and it demonstrates to me that, despite claims to the contrary, you do not care about having quality professionals instructing the students of MCPS. Why not work with us rather then against us to find the wasteful spending in the system, make things more transparent and find creative ways to help MCPS continue to be one of the finest school systems in the country?

  4. Enrollment may go up, it may not. Just as in past years. Projections are just that - projections. In the past MCPS projections have been used to gain substantial increases in the budget when no new children arrived.

    It's your union that keeps the budget process secret. You vote in the union leadership that sits at the secret budget table. You support the secret budget process. You can't have it both ways. You can't continually elect leaders who keep the budget secret and profess to want a transparent budget process.

    Wasteful spending? Where have you been? There are 2,293 posts on this blog and not one instance of the teachers union ever speaking up about wasteful MCPS spending. Your union traded away Promethean Boards for teacher salaries, where were you when that happened?

    The silence of the teachers union and the other unions and MCCPTA - all who sit at the secret budget table - has lead to the budget crisis that is faced by the county today.

    The natural consequences of that silence is that now the County Council is saying that they do not want to fund teachers step increases.

    Is your union making that clear to you?

    This is the Apple Ballot endorsed elected officials in action. This is what the electorate has been told to vote for by teachers.

    If you really are a MCPS staff member, are you paying attention?

  5. Funny claim that the union traded away raises for Promethean Boards.

  6. Thank you for admitting that "now the County Council is saying that they do not want to fund teachers step increases." Perhaps you'll go a little further and admit they have much more in mind to cut than just step increases.

    I attended the original community budget forums scheduled to release the Office of Legislative Oversight report. They were held in March, at Key Middle School, and at the Regional Services Centers in White Oak, Wheaton, and Bethesda. Ervin spoke at the first and at the one in Wheaton. I also intended to attend the one the council cancelled in Silver Spring. I attended the County Council budget hearing on April 5, but not the any additionaly scheduled forums last week. I was very pleased to hear parents from several school clusters testify in support of our schools at the April 5th meeting.

    Now, back to the OLO report. Have you read the OLO report? Do you know what is recommended and is being seriously considered? For the sake of transparency do you intend to post it here? It is easily available on the county council website. (Let me know if you can't find it.) Do you truly believe that Promethean Boards cost teachers their step increases? Really? The Promethean boards were purchased before the economy tanked. And to blame the budget process for the budget shortfall seems counter-productive.

    I want the best teachers for my daughter. I want small class sizes. That is why I live in Montgomery County. I have to echo the previous post. In seems that parents have more to gain by supporting teachers and their union than they do by criticizing them.

    To entertain the notion that cutting some perceived fat in the MCPS budget, (which has already been cut to the bone in previous years) will compensate for the classrom cuts we are yet to see is to engage in magical thinking.

    Finally, please let me know, which years did we project a rise in enrollment and actually see a decrease?

  7. @9:48 Funny? Really? Teachers think that is funny? If you are a teacher talk to your MCEA rep Jon Gerson and now Delegate Eric Ludetke about this. I did.

    The Parents' Coalition has made all of our research on this available on the website.

    MCEA was at the secret budget table that year.

  8. Gloria,

    Admitting? Hello! We've been providing the links to budget information. We posted the link to the Ervin interview.

    Where were you when the Promethean Boards arrived??? Teachers that were HERE know that they gave up money that year. And it was just about the same amount of money that the Promethean Boards purchased that year cost. The Promethean Boards weren't free, they weren't a grant. They had to be paid for just like everything else. Did you read Councilmember Knapp's statement on the purchase?

    We have no idea how many more Promethean Boards have been purchased or at what cost. All those details are kept from the public.

    Perceived fat? Your choice. You can either demand an open budget process or watch your increases disappear.

  9. In 2008, as the 3,000+ Promethean Boards were being installed...

    the 5.3 point Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) was eliminated for the next fiscal year.

  10. What do you mean when you talk about a secret budget? I thought that the Budget Committee included representatives from the PTA. And then the BoE holds public hearings on the budget. MCPS emplyee salaries are a matter of publuic record. How would you like it to be less secret?

  11. FYI - the OLO Report was posted to this blog in December of last year.

  12. Since you claim you cannot find out how much the school system spent on Promethean Boards, how can you claim that the purchase of them cost teachers increases in our salaries?

  13. @1:31 - In Maryland, the "budget committee" is the Board of Education. By law, our Board of Education is tasked with setting the budget. The Board is required to conduct their business at the public table under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

    It is well known that the current Board majority has moved the budget setting process to private meetings held outside of the public view. Board of Education member Laura Berthiuame has twice protested this process and the charade that are the budget hearings.

    Here are her statements:

    2009: "I'm sorry...had I known...I would have sat stone faced."

    2010 "What is our role"

    If the links don't transfer search "Laura Berthiaume" in this blog and look for those titles.

  14. Perhaps the funny comment was at your logic, not your claim. No where on this site has anyone produced a document/proof that Promethean Boards were traded for raises, because it didn't happen that way.

    Teachers voted to give up their raises for a promise of maintaining health benefits. It's in their contract which is a public document.

    Just because you link two facts together doesn't mean your version is anywhere near accurate. Maybe that is what the poster found funny.

  15. @4:40 & 8:37 - Time for you to catch up. Information was obtained on the Promethean Board purchases and on the actual source of the funds. The Promethean Boards weren't free, they weren't a grant and they have diverted funds that could have gone to teacher COLAs etc... Why did teachers give up anything in 2008? Please answer that question. If the reason is that they thought there was a funding shortfall then they weren't paying attention to how funds were being spent. (Although a $5,000 Promethean Board in 3,000 classrooms was a big clue!)

    The County Council held a hearing on this exact issue. Where you there? I was. The funding for the Promethean Boards could have gone to pay for teacher COLAs that year but the Apple folks agreed to allow the Promethean Boards to be installed without discussion. That's the beauty of secret budget meetings. Everything is "off the record!"

    Superintendent Weast had been failing to report income to the school system to the County Council and was spending the money without Council appropriation.

    More on the $21+/- million in missing funds:

    The Apple endorses a secret, "out of the public eye" budget process that allows this type of spending to go on unmonitored.

    In this instance, investigation by members of the public yielded important details about some of the Promethean Board purchases. Enough was revealed to show that there were serious problems in accounting for outside funds coming into MCPS. The whole truth has never been revealed. But enough is known to show that money that could have gone to teachers, went to unauthorized procurements. Your choice. Wouldn't have been mine.

    Other procurements have also been investigated with the same results. Unmonitored spending totaling many tens of millions of dollars. Read blog posts on IQEye, EasyLobby, and SmartBoard for starters. Then take a look at all of the no-bid procurements.
    Again, your choice. Certainly isn't my choice. Comparison shopping is always a good idea, unless you don't care how the money is spent and are willing to impact classrooms to allow spending without oversight to continue.

  16. That's a great post and I agree the lack of public information on the purchase of the boards was horrible, but it doesn't change the fact that teachers voted to give up their raises in exchange for keeping health care benefits the same until 2014. That is what actually happened and the teachers actually voted for this change in their contract.

    Again, just because two events happen at the same time doesn't mean they are directly linked.

    By the way, when people on this site claim you are hostile towards them it's because of comments like "time to catch up". Makes it seem as if you think you are better than others. Rather condescending.

  17. @2:04 - Then you better check in with the County Council. You are really behind on where they are on the school system's budget. They are making it VERY clear that they have been OVER funding the MCPS budget for a number of years. You are way behind in the discussion.

    And if you think that money grows on trees, then yes I guess there is no relationship between giving up staff funding and under the table multi-million dollar spending. Your choice. You can either watch your funding decrease or demand an open, transparent budget.

    It makes no sense to say something was "given up" but that it doesn't relate to the over all budget. So why was it given up?

    There is one MCPS budget and it has be reconciled at the end of the year. If you are good with MCPS continuing to spend tens of millions of dollars under the table then accept that you will continue to "give up" staff compensation.

  18. I may have made at comment on this topic before. I am an MCPS employee. We (the staff at my school) were all brought into a meeting where we were told about a fabulous grant that was going to allow us to access this wonderful new technology, the Promethean Board. At it wouldn't cost the school system a penny! It is very frustrating to have found out that we were lied to by our own union, which is something I have been emailing representatives about for some time now. I am furious. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for me to come to this website and see the Parents Coalition posting that we voluntarily traded our raises for Promethean Boards? We most certainly did not. Many of us (I can only speak from my own experience) were lied to about the source of those funds. So, again, I ask the members of this forum...don't you think we could make amazing strides towards more honesty and transparency is you worked side by side with the teachers who want the same thing rather then jumping on board the teacher bashing bandwagon? There is so much great information on this site, but many I know refused to read it because of the incredibly abrasive way you respond to any employee that tries to contribute. It is very disappointing.

  19. @11:20 What's disappointing is that you don't have the courage of your convictions to put a name behind your words.

    The teacher endorsed Apple Ballot has continued to tell county citizens to vote for the same candidates over and over again. The same candidates that installed the Promethean Boards while teachers gave up COLAs. The Apple Ballot won't even interview Board of Education candidates.

    And county citizens have done exactly as the Apple has asked. They have voted again and again to support the teacher endorsed candidates. Those are the candidates that have moved the budget to a secret committee that EXCLUDES the public, but which each union has representation.

    When exactly did your union rep at the secret budget meetings reveal to you that the Promethean Boards weren't free?

  20. I no longer work at the school with the aforementioned union rep, but when I emailed him, he denied any knowledge that the Promethean Boards were paid for with anything other then grant money. I am still trying to get to the bottom of why it was alright to lie to the union membership about the source of the funds used to pay for those Promethean Boards.

    You didn't really address the issue I brought up in my post. Don't you think your group would be larger and more effective, even have some inside information and really work towards transparency, if you worked hand and hand with the teachers of MCPS rather then against them?

  21. We as a teaching community need to get over this perceived "teacher bashing" mentality. I read nearly everything that goes up on this board and all that I've ever come away with is that the PC wants a high quality services for their children. I've seen no more perceived "conservative" thought than I've seen perceived "liberal" thought. We need to get over the fact that our agenda is not the world's agenda. We also need to think about the fact that some of what has traditionally been "our" agenda is misplaced if not counterproductive.

    It's an absolute scam that we endorse BOE candidates before all the candidates have declared their candicacy. We use "logistics" as an excuse. But the fact is there is no good excuse- it's shameful.

    As for the Promethean boards- I too heard the rumor about grants.

  22. @ Janis

    in re Promethean Board purchases: "The whole truth has never been revealed. But enough is known to show that money that could have gone to teachers, went to unauthorized procurements."

    If you're so sure about this information, POST the memo/document that contains this information. As a lawyer, you should know that evidence is required to support claims. As for now, I will consider it to be "disinformation." Furthermore, I just emailed a BOE member for clarification and cited your blog as a source.

  23. @8:03

    It's all been posted for years. We have an entire web page devoted to this one issue. All the documents we obtained.

    And multiple blog posts on Promethean Boards and the unappropriated E-Rate funding that MCPS has been receiving for years.

    All those tens of millions of E-Rate dollars could have gone to classroom teachers. Why didn't it?

  24. Here's the video of the public hearing that the County Council's Education committee held on the unappropriated E-Rate funds.

    The Council members made clear that under Maryland law they had the right to decide how these funds were appropriated. MCPS has to bring these funds to the Council.

    You can listen to the response of Superintendent Jerry Weast and COO Larry Bowers.

  25. Your beef is - again - lack of transparency by the administration. Where is the connection to COLAs? That's speculation at best.

    Sure I would have loved a COLA (and step). However, if money is sitting in a pot earmarked for technology, how can it possibly roll over into our COLAs?

    Again, where's your evidence?

  26. Could have gone to teachers is VERY different than teachers willingly trading the money for boards as you claimed earlier. There is simply no proof presented so far that indicates that is what actually happened.

  27. A. The money wasn't in a "pot" earmarked for anything. It was unappropriated money. It could have been used for anything. Get the facts. Do some research on E-Rate Rebates.

    B. Union reps knew the money was available and knew it was being diverted to Promethean Boards. Your choice.


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