Pr. George’s school board to vote on $1.75 billion budget

The Prince George’s County Board of Education is expected Tuesday night to approve a $1.75 billion budget proposed by Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell that expands programs to boost academic achievement, provides more professional development for teachers and promotes parent involvement.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2015 represents a 3.9 percent increase over current spending, the additional funds largely coming from a $43 million cut from the district’s surplus. Maxwell initially proposed taking $46 million out of surplus, but he reduced the amount after the school system received additional funds from the state.

Maxwell says using a “sizeable chunk” of the school system’s surplus is warranted.

“I truly believe that the programs and initiatives I have proposed here will enable us to move our school system forward in student achievement,” Maxwell said in December, when he presented the budget to the board and audience of parents, employees and community leaders.

The spending plan is the first one to be considered by the new hybrid school board, which was formed after County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) gained more power over the operation of the school system.

One board member has been advocating that the board consider spending $500,000 to replace outdated resource materials used by students and teachers.

Board member Peggy Higgins (District 2) said the money would be used to purchase resource books for teachers on Common Core and books with CDs for students who need additional assistance.

Higgins said the average age of media materials in the district is 15 to 20 years.

“While I fully support and applaud [Maxwell’s] initiatives, these new initiatives impact only a segment of students,” Higgins wrote to her colleagues. “This proposal impacts all students and every school.”

According to a recent internal audit, the school system’s current surplus is 8 percent, which is more than double the surplus in Montgomery and Howard school systems.

Higgins suggested that the $500,000 be taken from the surplus, using some of the funds that Maxwell initially wanted to take.

But Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said in an e-mail to the board that he wants the budget approved without any amendments. He suggested that a committee review Higgins’s suggestion for the future.

“I think we have a rare opportunity to send a clear message to the County Council and the State Assembly that Prince George’s is on the same page and that the Board, CEO and [County Executive] are united in bringing a strong, coherent and ambitious budget for approval,” Eubanks wrote. “If we start amending the budget from the floor, it sends the message that we are not united. . . . That is not the message I want to send.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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