The Prince George's County Board of Education approved a $9.8 million cost-cutting plan last night that includes redeploying up to 82 administrators as full-time classroom teachers, asking others to act as substitute teachers and reducing spending for textbooks.
Despite concerns over the impact on the quality of education, the board voted 9 to 0, with one member abstaining, to approve 29 cuts in spending recommended last week by Superintendent John A. Murphy. The cuts are designed to avoid a deficit caused partly by fuel costs.
Several parents spoke against parts of the plan, and were particularly critical of the 21 percent reduction in the textbook budget and a proposal to use guidance counselors, reading specialists and librarians as substitute teachers.
But the board approved Murphy's recommendations with little discussion.
School officials said that while the cuts are only a small part of the county's $552 million education budget, the fact that they are being made during the school year, when a significant part of the funds already have been committed, means they will be widely felt in the county's education programs.
Central office administrators will be reassigned to teaching jobs as they become vacant and a hiring freeze for teachers will be imposed, although exceptions will be made when no administrator with the proper background can be found for a particular slot.
School-based supervisors and specialists who do not teach full time also will be required to work of hours as substitute teachers, but funding for hiring substitutes has not been eliminated.
The $458,000 cut in textbook spending is expected to be felt most at the elementary school level, where up-to-date science and history books are in short supply.
Other elements of the plan include trimming $480,000, or 19 percent, from the budget for maps, lab equipment, computer software and other classroom materials.
The board backed Murphy's package after voting down, 7 to 3, a motion to delay action on the measure and explore the use of a one-day employee furlough as an alternative to some of the most unpopular cuts.
Such a furlough would save the school system about $2.2 million, but most board members said they did not feel comfortable asking workers to go without pay while other options were available.
Board Chairman Catherine A. Burch said, "I think people saw the overall picture . . . . We had to do some cutting fast, but everyone is bleeding a little bit, rather than one person or program bleeding to death."