By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO,

Less than a week after she was endorsed by a group of local residents for the interim title to be removed from her job as Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County School System, Dr. Monica E. Goldson announced plans for a salary step restoration proposal, for staffers whose salaries were effectively frozen between 2009-2012.

Goldson’s plan, which still needs the approval of the Prince George’s County Council, would cost $46 million dollars and benefit 8,300 hundred employees.  These employees include more than just teachers. It would also include support staff such as bus drivers, custodians and school nurses.

Dr. Monica E. Goldson, interim CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, proposed a salary step restoration proposal. (Courtesy Photo)

The salary step restoration, if approved, would be in conjunction with all other negotiated salary increases through their respective union partners including: ACE-American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2250, Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel (ASASP), Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 400.   

“For the last decade our community and employees have been slowly recovering from one of the worst economic recessions in the nation’s history. Along with teachers, our bus drivers, school nurses and custodians bore the brunt of lost wages and have seen the least increase in their paychecks over the last 10 years,” said Dr. Goldson in a prepared statement released by PGCPS. “Through it all, these employees were committed to serving our students and building the next generation. Taking this step forward demonstrates our commitment to retaining employees and recruiting the best to join us in the years to come.”

The impact of the recession forced PGCPS into drastic measures to limit its effect on students and schools.  The proposal provides one step increase annually for the next three fiscal years. This will cost just under $16 million annually for the next two years and approximately $15 million for the third year.

The $46 million for employee compensation is part of the $2 billion budget that was approved by the Prince George’s County School Board in February.  In response to Goldson’s proposal the Prince George’s County Council announced its support for the salary restoration but said it plans to analyze its impact on the system’s overall budget.

“The Council welcomes Dr. Goldson’s efforts to address this long standing issue for dedicated school employees who have continued to serve the system and its students, despite fiscal challenges,” reads the Council statement. “As the County’s fiscal authority, and in consideration of the current Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Review Process, the County Council will perform its due diligence and conduct a fiscal impact analysis of the salary step restoration proposal on the Board of Education Budget.”

Funding for the salary step restoration would be subsidized through a combination of Kirwan state funding and approximately $20 million in cuts from across the school system.  However, none of the cuts are expected to affect classroom resources, according to the statement.

The Kirwan Commission is also known as the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. It was formed in 2016 and is charged with reviewing the adequacy of school funding and making recommendations, among other duties.  One of those responsibilities is to monitor the appropriation of educational funding from revenue generated by the flourishing Maryland casino industry.

According to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education website that there are two significant funding sources to launch Kirwan initiatives in the FY 2020 budget. A $200 million Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Fund was created in 2018, and is now fully available along with $125 million in casino revenue to support Kirwan Commission initiatives.