Montgomery County teachers protest as budget shortfall and possible job cuts loom

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Montgomery County teachers protested outside a school board meeting Thursday evening as the teachers union says it received notice from Montgomery County Public Schools this week that the district may have to cut more than 300 jobs because of a budget shortfall.

Teachers wore red and chanted “Chop from the top!” outside the building.

“This is at a time when all educators are saying, ‘We have too much work now. Our children have too many needs now for us to effectively address,’” said Jennifer Martin, president of the Montgomery County Education Association.

“It’s really scary to know that we can lose our benefits. We can lose everything and just be laid off,” teacher Diane Nason said.

The county’s newly approved budget includes more than $3 billion for schools, which is more than the county executive called for. It’s tens of millions of dollars less, though, than MCPS sought.

The school board said they may have to cut teachers’ jobs, leading to finger-pointing among the county council, school board and county executive.

MCPS cited several factors for the budget shortfall, including:

  • inflation
  • an end to federal pandemic funding
  • more employee medical claims
  • a state mandate to expand pre-kindergarten
  • more students needing special education and multilingual services
  • more maintenance workers needed to support renovations

The county council voted Thursday to approve the budget for fiscal year 2025. MCPS requested about $3.352 billion. The council approved about $3.3 billion, which is $52 million less than MCPS sought.

Several county leaders pointed the blame at each other when News4 asked about funding for schools.

“I’m very concerned about the level of funding for MCPS,” Councilmember Will Jawando said. “The county executive really started this problem by sending a budget that underfunded our schools by $55 million plus.”

“This problem started with a decision the council made last year not to raise taxes sufficient to fund the ongoing cost of the system, and it’s just been made worse this year,” County Executive Marc Elrich said.

Councilmember Evan Glass also placed blame on MCPS. He said the school system only notified the council on Thursday morning about the possible job cuts, as councilmembers prepared to vote on the budget.

“They’re giving us information now about our decisions. Shame on them – blindsiding us, blindsiding our educators, blindsiding the entire community,” Glass said.

The school board voted Thursday morning to go into a closed session to discuss the budget.

The union said it was notified by MCPS on Tuesday that the district is considering laying off existing teachers, as well as rescinding some offers that have been made to new hires.

News4 reached out to MCPS for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.

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