Thursday evening the Prince George’s County school board approved a $1.6 billion budget characterized by staff reductions, increased class sizes and the elimination of several enrichment programs. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. calls the approved budget a “tough-love” fiscal plan that will hopefully garner support from the state and county to contribute more money to the school system. The Washington Post reports:
The $1.6 billion budget marks a 2 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. In an effort to close a $155 million gap, the plan would cut 300 staff vacancies, 400 teachers and 92 librarians, among other personnel reductions.
Several initiatives would end, including a popular reading program for students who have fallen behind and transportation for students attending specialized schools. An ecological center known as Camp Schmidt would close. In addition, pre-kindergarten would be reduced to a half-day program and class sizes in most grades would increase by one student.
Hite had long known this day would come. For the past two years, the budget was kept afloat with an infusion of nearly $100 million in federal stimulus money. That money has dried up.
Citing the system’s declining enrollment, the state had reduced its education funding for Prince George’s by about $20 million from last year’s levels.
There has also been a loss of tax revenue in the county, exacerbating a budget brimming over with cruel cuts.
The board’s efforts to obtain more county and state funding, at a time when demands are high and money is tight, might prove futile. The approved budget asks the county to contribute $25 million, which would increase funding by $200 per student.
By June, the three entities must reconcile any differences in allocations. Chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs said the board’s deep cuts are needed to pressure the county.
The budget was approved by an 8-to-1 vote, with Edward Burroughs III voting against the plan.