MCPS budget proposal prioritizes equity, mental health

By Ben Waldman

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith released his recommended MCPS operating budget for next fiscal year Dec. 18. The budget is a 4.5% increase from this fiscal year’s budget, for a total of $2.8 billion dollars. It aims to help the county manage an increase in students and implement new programs, including an Equity and Innovation Fund and more mental health specialists.

“The key for this budget is to manage significant growth and ensure that all students have access and opportunity to the resources, the rigorous coursework, the support and staff that they need to meet their full potential,” MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.

The budget includes increased funding for a number of MCPS’ college preparation initiatives, like International Baccalaureate and College Tracks, both of which help prepare students for more rigorous coursework in college.

“The budget appeared to me to reflect Dr. Smith and the Board’s priorities,” Principal Robert Dodd said. “It shows that the Board and Dr. Smith are advocating to get the resources that we need to improve.”

One of the main focuses of the budget is to improve equity within the school system. Schools with fewer resources tend to have lower levels of student achievement and larger class sizes. The budget includes a $2 million dollar Equity and Innovation Fund to pay for “innovative proposals” in “schools with identified needs.”

“Equity is a big priority in the school system,” Dodd said. “When they look at the needs of schools around MCPS, they’re trying to allocate resources to help kids who need the most help.”

The Superintendent’s proposed budget will now go to the Board of Education; Board members will review and possibly alter the budget before sending it to the County Executive and County Council to become law.

Students can share their opinions on the budget in a variety of ways throughout all stages of the budget process, including testifying to the County Council and submitting written comments to the Superintendent.

“Students should do their due diligence and make sure they stay engaged in this process,” Onijala said.