Schools Budget Proposal Offers No Raise for Teachers

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By Rosalind S. Helderman and Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 10, 2008

Prince George's schools Superintendent John E. Deasy presented an austere budget proposal to the Board of Education on Monday that includes no raises for teachers and pauses expansions of some of the school system's signature programs.

The $1.67 billion proposed budget would increase spending by $13.5 million over last year's budget, Deasy said, but it contains $16.9 million less than what would be needed to maintain the programs in place. Deasy said he wanted to keep the cutbacks from affecting the classroom.

The brake on spending changes the pattern of the past several years, when the state began a massive increase in education funding as part of the Bridge to Excellence Act. Now, with the real estate market in crisis and property tax revenue likely to stagnate or decline, educational leaders will have to fight for every dollar from cash-strapped state and county governments.

"I wish it were last year again," Deasy said. "I wish it were the last four years again."

Deasy said he planned to save money by eliminating 70 jobs in administration and non-classroom positions. About 275 teaching positions will be removed as well, a change made possible by declining student enrollment. Some of Deasy's academic initiatives, such as the International Baccalaureate and America's Choice programs, are to be maintained but not expanded to other schools.

The least popular measure, however, will probably be the lack of teachers' raises. Teachers have received fairly generous raises since Deasy took office in May 2006, but Donald Briscoe, the president of the Prince George's County Educators' Association, said that he did not want teachers to lose ground compared with surrounding jurisdictions.

"That is a major concern of ours," Briscoe said. "Of course it's not something that we wish to hear. We won't be taking that lying down. That's for sure."

Deasy responded: "I've always said to labor unions, 'When we had the money we gave that money.' " Board members' reactions were cautious because they had not reviewed the budget in detail.

"I wish we had more," said Ron L. Watson (At Large), the board's vice chairman. "We're committed to continue the gains that we've had with what we have to work with. We're committed to finding ways to get additional revenue sources."

Linda Thomas (District 4) echoed the idea of getting additional revenue and said: "It's going to hurt all the way around this year."

Game On for Edwards

For the kind of campaign she is trying to run, congressional candidate Donna F. Edwards could hardly have scripted Tuesday morning's event better.

Five weeks before she takes on eight-term U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) in the Democratic primary for Maryland's 4th Congressional District seat, Wynn held a breakfast fundraiser at the glassy Capitol Hill offices of Entergy, an energy company that is the nation's second-largest nuclear energy generator.

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