The Prince George's County Board of Education has approved an $876 million budget for public schools, including $7 million to boost teacher salaries while preserving popular programs for outdoor education, art and alternative schools.
Because of the strong support for salary increases and the board's inability to persuade County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) to give the schools more money, several other programs had to be scaled back as the board voted 8 to 1 Thursday night to approve its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The board eliminated door-to-door busing for magnet school students, who will now be transported from centralized bus stops. It trimmed funds for custodial services, which could lead to layoffs, and for administrative offices. The board agreed to delay a study on whether children of different races have equal access to the best school facilities. Funding for Project Success, a $1.9 million dropout prevention program, was cut to $400,000.
Board members listened to parents, students and teachers stake their claims to beloved programs in testimony Thursday, and they continued to shift money around just moments before the final vote.
"My bright and intelligent daughter dropped out of high school . . . and sometimes parents just can't reach their children," said Pat Brent, whose daughter in 1989 attended the Community-Based Classroom alternative school in Lanham, which was slated for elimination. "She now teaches in your county, and I believe that direct turnaround was due to what they gave her."
The board agreed to retain the Lanham program as well as the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, an outdoor camp in Brandywine where students learn about the environment; fine arts festivals and performances; software and other materials for libraries; and alternative high schools in Oxon Hill and Bladensburg.
The board already had negotiated a $24 million cost-of-living and step-scale pay increase for teachers, and it had initially earmarked $17 million more for raises in order to make salaries competitive with neighboring counties. But Curry said he would fund only $876 million for schools--$52 million less than the school board requested--largely because he did not want to pay for teacher raises before receiving a detailed spending plan for the raises.
School board members by the end of the summer hope to persuade Curry and the County Council to at least match the $7 million they allocated for salary increases.
Many school officials said they believe higher salaries and other incentives are essential to help the 128,000-student school system keep and attract talented teachers.
About 18 percent of the county's 8,000 teachers are uncertified, the highest percentage in the state. State officials also are eyeing a possible takeover of 12 schools because of poor academic performance.