Pr. Geo Board of Education approves proposed schools budget

The Prince George’s County Board of Education, which has had a rocky start adjusting to the school system’s new governance structure, was united on Tuesday night, voting unanimously to approve the $1.75 billion budget proposed by Schools Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. Maxwell.

The proposal, which uses a “sizeable chunk” of the school system’s surplus to help expand programs to boost academic achievement, increase parental involvement and provide more professional development for teachers, was hailed by elected and appointed members of the board as a significant step in improving Maryland’s second-largest school system.

“This budget is more than just about numbers,” said School Board member Daniel Kaufman. “It’s also a vision document over where we want to take our school system.”

Maxwell, who became the schools chief in August after a leadership overhaul of the county system, submitted a budget for fiscal 2015 that is 3.9 percent more than the current spending plan. About $43 million will be taken out of the district’s surplus.

The major initiatives include an increase in full-day pre-kindergarten, an expansion of art, foreign language and secondary school reform programs and the restoration of some parent liaison positions to improve interaction between administrators and parents.

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said the board added $1 million to create a Family and Community Outreach Office and hire a parent ombudsman to help parents navigate the school system and address their concerns.

The budget provides for eight additional full-day pre-kindergarten programs, bringing the total to 16. And $3 million would be spent on hiring 31 more parent liaisons to help in schools with growing Hispanic populations, bringing the total to 61.

It also sets aside $25.2 million for union negotiation, professional development and a new peer assistance program for teachers that costs $2 million in its first year of implementation.

School Board member Edward Burroughs (District 8) said the budget expands opportunity for students, by increasing foreign language programs in the district and full-day pre-kindergarten in a few high-poverty communities.

“I believe this budget not only raises the ceiling, but raises the floor,” Burroughs said.

School Board member Peggy Higgins (District 2) said she was pleased with the final budget.

Higgins had previously pushed for the board to add $500,000 to the budget to pay for new media resources. She said on Tuesday that Maxwell was reaching out to the business community to get financial assistance.

“It’s another way that we are showing that we are working together for the same goal,” Higgins said.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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