Pr. George’s takes positions on state bills

The Prince George’s County Board of Education voted Thursday afternoon to support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to change the funding formula that affects how state school aid is distributed, a move that would provide the school system with $2.5 million in its first year of implementation.

For years, Prince George’s has complained that the calculation based on “net taxable income” unfairly helps wealthier counties where taxpayers file for extensions, making the county appear less affluent and eligible for more state aid.

“This will be a tremendous benefit to Prince George’s County,” said school board member Peggy Higgins (District 2).

O’Malley’s plan would be phased in over five years. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has said that Prince George’s has lost $20 million a year under the current calculation.

“This is a big deal for Prince George’s and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it passes this time,” school board Chairman Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said.

In other action, the school board voted to oppose a proposal by State Sen. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) that would require the school system to make financial literacy a high school graduation requirement. It also voted against a statewide measure that would require all school boards to develop an intervention program for truant students who miss 10 percent of classes each semester, and it tabled a bill that would require schools to have a school resource officer in every school that doesn’t have one.

Efforts to make financial literacy a high school graduation requirement statewide have failed in the past. The requirement would only affect Prince George’s under Muse’s bill.

Interim Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley and board members said they were opposed to an unfunded mandate, especially when the school system incorporates financial literacy into its lesson plans.

“As you look at our curriculum, financial literacy is embedded in our curriculum,” Crawley said, adding that the school system agreed to partner with Junior Achievement to open a Finance Park where all eighth-graders would learn more about finances.

A. Duane Arbogast, acting deputy superintendent for academics, said the bill would require about 73 teachers at a cost of about $6.1 million.

The board voted against the truancy bill, which its lobbyist described as “targeting our county in a negative way.” Len Lucchi said the bill would cost the school system an estimated $5 million because of its high rate of truant students. At 3.3 percent, Prince George’s has the second highest percentage of truant students in the state. The state average during the 2011-2012 school year was 1.9 percent.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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