A divided Prince George’s County Board of Education adopted a downsized $1.8 billion budget Thursday night, cutting programs that would have been funded by a proposed property-tax increase rejected by the County Council.
Schools chief Kevin Maxwell presented a revised budget to the board last week after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) failed to generate the support needed for his ambitious plan to raise the tax rate 15 percent and increase school spending by $133 million.
The council instead approved a smaller tax increase that would produce about a quarter of the funding Maxwell says he needs to expand programs and boost student achievement.
Maxwell’s latest plan was approved by the school board on a 7-to-3 vote, with two abstentions. It maintains existing programs but does not include the rapid expansion he had sought for several initiatives. These included universal pre-kindergarten, dual-enrollment in high school and college courses, talented and gifted programs, digital literacy and the hiring of parent-school liaisons.
In addition, teachers will not receive increased retention pay or stipends for national board certification. Arts and foreign language programs will also not spread to all county schools, and an effort to provide free breakfast to all students will not come to fruition. >>> See changes here >>>(bbe491_8d2b4f2cb1e043f991186593dc93bca5)
“This is our best recommendation of how we move forward,” Maxwell said.
Board Chair Segun Eubanks said he was “satisfied, given our limitations, that we made the best choices we could make.”
But the cuts infuriated some board members, ratcheting up a controversy about funding schools designed specifically for first- and second-generation immigrants.
The budget preserves funding for two international high schools that would cater to English-language learners who are struggling in traditional classes. One would operate at a separate Bladensburg facility and the other within Largo High School.
The NAACP has criticized the schools, calling the initiatives segregation. Immigrant advocacy organizations such as CASA of Maryland say such schools exist across the country and provide options for a challenged population. PGCPS is not performing well because the work has not been about the students’ success, but rather it is about adults and their political agenda. Ejecting several staff members well connected to Mr. Rushern Baker III and Dr. Kevin Maxwell to “eat” from students reserve fund is not the answer!