Prince George’s County Struggles to Keep Schools Funded
(Washington Informer) — Despite budget woes, Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and other school leaders have pledged to shield classrooms from devastating cuts needed to close an anticipated $85 million budget shortfall. Last week, Hite unveiled a new $1.6 billion budget proposal that includes the $85 million in cuts. What he proposed in December’s proposed budget of $1.68 billion did not include the cuts. Officials explained that Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled a state budget last week that calls for a $20.8 million reduction in funding for Prince George’s County Public Schools. The reduction is attributed to a drop in countywide enrollment, decreases that have occurred over the last few years. The county had 127,039 students last year, compared to 137,285 in 2004.
The school board is slated to discuss the budget at a work session February 8, and during public hearings on Tue., Feb. 15 and Wed., Feb. 16. “My priority and responsibility to this community is to request a budget that provides our students with the support and resources they need to succeed so that we can continue the academic gains of the past several years,” Hite said. “While our goal is to ‘hold the classroom harmless,’ additional cuts to the budget may impact successful academic programs and resources.” Among the changes forced by the budget cuts are a countywide switch to a half-day pre-kindergarten program from a full-day program, online courses for those students who now attend evening high school programs and increases in class sizes, enough to eliminate 259 full-time positions.