Monday, December 15, 2014

Wed. 12/17: BOE Members Durso and Ortman-Fouse at Taxapayers League Meeting

Montgomery County Taxpayers League Meeting
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                                      Wednesday, December, 17, 2014  -  7:00 - 9:00 pm
                                    5th Floor Conference Room,  Council Office Building
                                             100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850
Topic:   "Montgomery County Public Schools - Perspectives from a Current and a New School Board Member"


Mike Durso, Montgomery County School Board Member, District 5
Jill Ortman-Fouse, Montgomery County School Board Member, At-Large

Questions sent to the speakers in advance of the meeting:

1. Only 25% of county households have children in the public school system, yet 100% of households pay for the schools.  There is a quite widely held view that the Board and the Superintendent do not appear interested in answering questions from the public.  What will you do to increase communication between MCPS and the other 75% of households who foot the bill but have no students in the public school system? 

2.  The Maintenance of Effort (MoE) law while a boon to the school system provides no such favors to the rest of the County government.  With the recent dismal revenue projections for Montgomery County which will very likely result in a reduction to the County Government in FY 2016 while increasing funding to the school system at the mandated MoE level, what is your position on the MoE law and do you have any suggestions for its amendment?  

3.  Given the growing over-capacity of our school buildings and the proliferation of portables, the need for school construction funding is an issue with which we all agree.  Would you agree that reducing the cost of renovations, additions and new school construction would help reduce the backlog of schools on the waiting list.  What actions do you think the county can take to reduce costs such as changes in construction procedures, changes in siting procedures, moving to "design-build" in bidding out contracts, looking at pre-fabricated buildings, fighting for reduced regulation from Annapolis regarding "prevailing wages", etc.  Also what do you think the BoE can do to temper constituent expectations about building what some have described as "5-star hotel design" school  buildings so that scarce resources can be used for a greater number of school construction projects?

4. When reviewing the system's budget request for FY 2016, will you look at costs or outcomes, or both?  When outcomes are not supplied, how do you estimate them?  When baseline costs are not broken down by strategy how do you evaluate them?  Do you have a standard for non-instructional costs as a percentage of total costs? 

5. Is "equity" spending which directs more resources to schools that need them the most, a sufficient criterion for evaluating program alternatives?  How should achievement gap performance goals be factored into the study to improve "bang for the buck"?

6.  In the FY 2015 budget, the Career Lattice Program called for 250 exemplary teachers to be awarded extra compensation for serving as lead teachers in lower income schools.  Should this pilot program be expanded in FY16? What would it cost?  What are the criteria you would use for expansion?

7.  When the FY 2015 budget was formulated, oil and gas prices were at record highs.  What are the savings accrued from the plummet in prices?  Given that this decrease in prices is likely to continue, will the FY 2016 budget reflect the new scenario?

8.  Given the very high cost of union contracts, does it seem fair that the very same staff negotiating with the unions benefit from the outcome of these negotiations?  Do you see an inherent conflict of interest here?  Would an independent board lend credibility to the process?

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