A succession of speakers, most of them teachers, complained to the Prince George's County Council last night that the county executive's budget proposal would further burden a school system already beset by overcrowded classrooms, aging textbooks and low pay.
Among about 20 speakers at a public hearing was Board of Education President Angelo Castelli, who attacked County Executive Parris Glendening for saying last week that previous school boards were responsible for a desegregation crisis the county now faces.
Castelli declared that "our county's public school system is in trouble, deep trouble, and the trouble has not been averted by the budget" proposed by Glendening.
"In fact, the trouble has been compounded," Castelli said. "On the one hand we have been given assurances that public education is the 'number one priority' for the future of Prince George's County. On the other hand we have been given a budget that resembles the past."
Glendening's recommendation for $348 million in school spending is almost $15 million less than the $362.7 million that Superintendent John A. Murphy requested in February. It is $16 million more than the current budget.
The council is scheduled to vote June 18 on the proposed $601.9 million combined county and school budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Many speakers complained that school materials are inadequate and several brought examples of textbooks now in use that do not mention man's landing on the moon in 1969.
"Until we have full funding for the school budget in Prince George's County, our children are not going to go to the moon," said Karen Foster, who represented the Association of School Administrators and Supervisors. "They're not going to go anywhere."
Others, such as Prince George's County Educators Association president Paul Pinsky, warned council members that they will be held accountable in next year's election for this year's budget action.
"If you are not able to make significant improvements in next year's budget, teacher and community hostility will jump," Pinsky said. "Time's running out."
Council members said after the hearing that they are sympathetic to the requests for more money but are not optimistic that they will be able to close the almost $15 million gap.
"I think the council will go through the budget looking for everything we can put together," said Council Chairman William B. Amonett. "We know there is no more revenue."
Several speakers at the hearing complained that the school system and its budget are being caught up in a debate over school desegregation 13 years after the problem should have been solved.
School officials have said that a new desegregation plan devised by a court-appointed panel would cost $65 million to implement. That plan recommends more extensive busing and the closing and reopening of many schools.
"Had the entire system, which includes some of you on this council, done the right thing in your planning in 1972, we would not be in the mess we're in now," said Joann Benson of Landover.