About 900 people marched from opposite sides of Rockville on Tuesday evening, converging on the steps of the in Town Center for a rally in support of education funding before the County Council held its first public hearing on the fiscal 2012 operating budget.
Members of the county teachers, principals and supporting service workers unions carried signs, blew whistles and rang bells through the city's streets. One group marched from the , home of the county school board. Another marched from .
Their message: County students are the county's future and in order to keep them thriving, the County Council must pass a budget that keeps schools strong.
Doug Prouty, president of the county teachers union, told the County Council that the would hit teachers particularly hard.
Leggett's proposal —the same level as the current budget despite the fact that the school system expects enrollment to grow by 2,400 students in the fall.
Leggett declined to include a $82 million increase requested by the school system. Without it the county could be subject to a fine by the state for failing to comply with a state law that requires that counties fund schools at the same level per pupil, or higher, from one year to the next. Leggett said the county would instead apply for a waiver from the requirement.
"We've got to let it be clear to the County Council, that that's it," said county school board President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park. "We have to work together to figure out how we're going to ensure that we don't have cuts below that 82 [million dollars]."
Without that $82 million schools already face the prospects of larger class sizes and a variety of cuts including the elimination of Outdoor Education, fewer security guards and academic intervention teachers and cuts to instrumental music in elementary schools.
Under Leggett's proposal, county employees would pay 30 percent of their health insurance premiums—a 10 percent increase—and would contribute 2 percent more to their retirement plans. That, in addition to the restoration in January of the 2 percent Social Security tax, "would result in a 10 to 15 percent pay cut for [school system] employees," Prouty said.
Prouty testified that as state and federal funding for Montgomery County Public Schools has surged over the past decade, the contribution of county tax dollars going toward schools has decreased from 52.5 percent in fiscal 2003 to 44.7 percent in the proposed budget.
"Were MCPS still getting the same percentage in local tax revenues as it did in FY '03, it would mean an additional $279 million a year going to our schools next year," he said.
The County Council will hold its final public hearings on the fiscal 2012 budget at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday in the third floor hearing room of the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building. The hearings will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (channel 6 on Comcast and RCN and channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov.