P.G. County School Board OKs $1.8B Budget
Joshua Garner | 2/26/2014, 1:12 p.m. | Updated on 3/5/2014, 3 p.m.
The Prince George’s County Board of Education approved the proposed $1.75 billion fiscal 2015 budget in a unanimous vote in Upper Marlboro last week.
The board's approval is a win for Prince George’s County Public Schools’ CEO Kevin Maxwell, who took the reins last summer. The budget must get final approval by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and the Prince George's County Council.
“We’re appreciative of the collaborative spirit and the hard work that we have all done,” Maxwell told the board on Feb 25. “I’ve never seen a [school] board commit themselves to the level of work that you have engaged yourselves in.”
Maxwell presented the proposed budget to the board on Dec. 12. The total represents a nearly 4 percent increase from last year's $1.6 billion budget.
The budget marks the expansion of language immersion programs, full-day pre-kindergarten programs, and the Talented and Gifted program. Additionally, the budget makes inroads to engage the school system's Latino population.
The budget also allocates funding to bring in roughly 31 additional parent liaisons in schools with high Latino populations to act as translators and provide other services for Spanish-speaking parents. The positions were all but eliminated in past budgets due to declining revenues.
Board members agreed that parent engagement was crucial to the success of the county school system. Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said that $1 million had been marked in the budget to fund parent engagement and the creation of the Family and Community Office in addition to funding an extensive research project that includes focus groups of parents and teachers and a survey to determine what parents want to see in the school system.
“We all know that engagement with parents … is essential if we are to improve student outcomes,” he said. “As a board, we wanted to move that needle on parent engagement even further.”
Expectations are high for Maxwell and the board to deliver strong leadership and improved standards to county schools. Maxwell was selected earlier this year to head the county school system by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) after he was granted the authority to select a school system leader by state legislators. Maxwell had previously served as superintended of Anne Arundel County Public Schools and as a teacher and principal in Prince George’s County for 20 years.
Prince George’s County has the second largest school district in the state. Baker made improving county schools a campaign promise, and part of his initiative to revamp the county’s image.
Likewise, the Board of Education was revamped last year giving Baker the authority to appoint board members. New members admitted they had some challenges learning the budget process for the first time, but said they found a way to push forward.
“I think everyone rolled up their sleeves and did their best,” Board Member Daniel Kaufman said. “The budget is more than just paper with figures and dollar signs on it, it’s also a vision document on where we want to take our school system.”
Parents, too, said the budget showed compromise with some parents making a final effort to ensure funding for programs.
Barbara Michelman, president of the Prince George’s Association for Talented and Gifted (TAG), pressed board members to continue to fund TAG programming and increase its presence at schools.
“We have students who are traveling upwards of an hour and a half daily to get to a TAG Center school,” she said. “Clearly there is a geographical need. We hope that you would allocate the resources for expansion.”
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