The Prince George’s County Public Schools budget situation has hit a crisis level as a severe deficit is threatening over 1,000 jobs within the school system.

From the superintendent down to the teachers, staff members in the public school system are concerned about the future of Prince George’s schools. Principal Carletta Marrow of Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School sent an email last week to parents to show how serious the situation is.

“Our Prince George’s County Education system is under attack. Our teachers and administrators are at risk of losing their jobs and they need our help and support,” Marrow wrote. “These are the people whom we trust to instill quality and character in our children, our future. I have just been informed of a meeting yesterday for staff members only to discuss the dismissal of 1,000 PGCPS staff members which will include teachers.”

The alert was sounded after Gov. Martin O’Malley released a budget that would leave the school system with a projected $85 million deficit, $20.8 million more than expected. County officials say the deficit is exacerbated by the lack of federal funding for the county this year – creating the need to request more funding from the state.

This caused William Hite, Prince George’s Schools superintendent, to take proactive steps to create public awareness of the problem. Hite says that he’s doing everything he can to make sure the quality of Prince George’s Public Schools isn’t compromised, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do so.

“My priority and responsibility to this community is to request a budget that provides our students with the support and resources they need to succeed so that we can continue the academic gains of the past several years,” Hite said in a statement.

“While our goal is to ‘hold the classroom harmless,’ additional cuts to the budget may impact successful academic programs and resources.”

This comes at a bad time for a school system that was struggling already and for Rushern Baker, a county executive who wants reform. Despite Maryland being No. 1 nationally in the performance of its public school system, Prince George’s County is last among all jurisdictions in performance according to rating service, SchoolDigger.

Part of Baker’s policy to increase school performance is to have better teachers. He wants to create programs to retain teachers. That may be a difficult task if job security and the budget are concerns. “One of the things that I want to do is help make sure that we have programs that retain good teachers throughout Prince George’s County,” he told the AFRO recently.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is we have this big gap in the county,” he continued. “Our teachers fall into two categories: either they’re brand new or they’re ready to retire. What I want to help the school system do is get the professional development training for the new teachers that are here and for the teachers that are still here so that there’s professional growth.”

Those plans may be on hold for the time being until stability is created within the school system. Hite is working hard to create that stability and streamline the budget.

“Over the past two years, we have closely examined the way we do business, streamlined processes, and made painful cuts to staffing and non-instructional programs throughout the district,” he said. “In developing our budget for the upcoming school year, we are continuing to look for additional opportunities to reduce operating costs and work more efficiently.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO