The Prince George’s County Board of Education approved a 1.6 billion budget early June 21that will cost hundreds of teachers their jobs.

“Our school district is in a very delicate fiscal situation. We have had to make difficult choices and our board has had to make tough decisions,” Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite wrote on a blog. “Our collective efforts helped prevent what otherwise would have been devastating cuts to every sector of our learning communities. We will continue to do all we can to resolve the budget shortfall.”

As recommended by the county council, the board fully restored $8.6 million for specialty transportation. This was a heated item during the budgetary process as parents, students and teachers involved in several of the county’s magnet programs fought to keep this, as it would have prevented many students from getting to schools that are outside of their districts.

The county is changing the bell schedule for 12 non-program specific schools to help offset those costs. Camp Schmidt will also be fully restored.

The county’s Reading Recovery program will only be partially restored. Only 24 teachers will remain a part of what Superintendent William Hite is calling “literacy strike force teams,” down from 79 teachers this year.

There will also be no funding for cost-of-living increases, step increases, staff differentials and stipends. There are also plans to implement staff furloughs for executive staff as well increasing lunch prices for students and adults.

The budget also calls for a 5.4 percent increase in energy and rental rates to support growth levels as well as a brand new custodial supply fee of $2.00 per hour for outside groups.

High school students planning to play a sport will now have to pay a $50 fee to be collected at the beginning of each sports season, which will cover the student’s expenses for the entire season. Families experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for a modified payment plan.

“This is the first time we have implemented an activity fee for high school athletics in our district,” Hite said in a statement. “It is one of many strategies that will enable us to continue enrichment and extracurricular programs for students during these difficult economic times.”

The final budget was about $10 million more than what was originally asked for by the board, but remains $13.3 million less than what was approved for last year’s budget and is significantly less than the $1.68 billion Hite originally proposed.

General education, substitutes and before and after care program teachers are among those whose positions are in line to be cut. The budget still must be formally approved by the county council.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO