Prince George’s County’s schools chief recommended a $2 billion budget that would increase spending by $182 million as it expands full-day pre-kindergarten, reduces class sizes in early grades, boosts employee salaries and adds 25 new math specialists.
Kevin M. Maxwell, in his third year as chief executive of Maryland’s second-largest school system, released the full details of the plan Friday, the morning after he delivered a “State of the School System” address that called for initiatives he described as “bold ideas that will bring outstanding academic achievement for all students.”
The budget proposal for next fiscal year would boost spending by 9.9 percent in one of the state’s lowest-performing districts. State test results released this month showed that just 15 percent of the county’s students in grades 3 through 8 combined were “on track” in math, well below Maryland’s 29 percent.
Speaking at Charles H. Flowers High School, in Springdale, Md., Maxwell appealed for community support in investing in education. “Far too often, we simply accept that we make do with half a measure that we all know isn’t right for our children,” he said. “There is so much more that can be done, should be done and must be done.”
Last year, school funding was at the heart of a budget battle in Prince George’s, with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) seeking a 15 percent property tax increase as a way to generate more funds for public schools. A 4 percent tax increase ultimately passed, leaving many proposals unfunded.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said the county executive looks forward to hearing the community’s response to Maxwell’s proposal as the budget process continues.
Maxwell’s budget proposal includes a total of about $50 million in new academic programs and $42.5 million for employee compensation increases that are not yet negotiated, which he said would help toward recruiting and keeping teachers.
“Because we live in one of the most competitive educational hiring markets in the nation, these funds would be used to attract and retain our educators,” Maxwell said.
An additional $4.8 million would go toward school-based professional development. There would be a total of 285 additional positions in the budget, including 34 teaching positions related to lowering class sizes in kindergarten and in first and second grades.
Maxwell also is proposing a new middle-college “pre-teacher academy” so students interested in careers in education can be part of a dual-enrollment program, getting two years of college credit as they progress through high school.
“Hopefully, they will all come to work for us, and if there is a way over time that we can work to incentivize that opportunity, that would be great,” Maxwell said in an interview.
The plan calls for doubling the number of literacy coaches in the district to 12 from six. “Literacy is the key to everything else in school,” he said. “That’s why our strategic plan is centered on it. It permeates every aspect of our work and is our most effective tool in closing the achievement gap.”
There would be a continued expansion of arts integration efforts that started last year at 15 Prince George’s schools. Currently, 41 schools are involved, and Maxwell proposes adding an additional $1.3 million to the initiative.
Two recently created international schools would get additional funding, as would the district’s high school-based career academies and a new Parent University program.
The spending increase includes about $80.1 million that budget officials say represents the increasing cost of school operations, including already-negotiated pay increases, as well as rising health insurance and pension costs that are shifting from the state to the county.
School Board President Segun Eubanks said the board would review the proposal in coming weeks.
“Our job as a school board is to tell our elected officials the investment that is required for success as a school district, and then they have the very tough job of figuring out how to fund it and how to work together with our communities to collaborate on making sure we make the right decision,” he said.