Public Comment to the Prince George’s County School Board
I made public remarks at the February 8, 2011 budget public hearing of the Prince George’s County School Board. I didn’t get to finish my entire statement, but here’s the summary of what I said for those who may have missed it:
I live in Accokeek, MD. I represent myself here tonight, but more than that, I represent my children who are here with me, Faith, 4, and Joshua, 2, who will be future PGCPS students.
If you are a prospective parent like me, and I’m not sure if any of you are, then you would understand the anxiety I feel about placing my children in the kind of classroom we are now facing. Given the resources and compensation we are providing to our teachers, who do the heavy lifting every day, I’m not sure our budget represents our public commitment to making sure that our children come first, as Dr. Hite has promised. If we are truly linking our budget to our stated goal of putting children first, then that’s where the bulk of our money needs to go. Classrooms come first, and everything else is secondary.
Some of you may have heard I recently did a little research on the salaries of our administrators outside the classroom. Just last week, a speaker stated that 723 of PGCPS staff make more than $100,000, and of that amount, Dr. Hite reported back that just 51 employees are directly involved in educating our children. I dug down even further, requesting individual employee salaries within just one of our four human resources divisions, as noted on pages 167-178 of the school’s budget documents. While I didn’t have time to scour the entire 316 pages, what I discovered within those 11 pages really upset me. We are paying $65,000 to data entry clerks, $90,000 to a secretary, and more than $100,000 to several mid-level bureaucrats. The division employs a director for 41 employees, and three additional supervisors. Meanwhile, my future kindergarten student can expect only one teacher to supervise her class of 30, or more, five-year olds. Her teacher can only hope to make over $100,000 after acquiring a master’s degree and several years of teaching experience. So I ask you, where do our priorities really lie?
I don’t bring this up to shame our hard-working HR employees, but to point out the disparity in spending on administrative salaries versus those of our teachers. I wouldn’t expect our human resources staff to recommend cuts to their own salaries, that requires the courage of our elected officials and the community to make those tough decisions. However, the cuts we do make should not unfairly penalize our teachers. I know that of which I speak, because my husband and I are public servants who, for the past three years, have endured two-week furloughs, increased health care costs, no pay raises, and no cost-of-living increases. We are Ivy-league educated, highly experienced professionals who could certainly work elsewhere, but we chose public service because we love it, and we understand that when times are tight we must all make sacrifices for the greater good of the organization.
The School Board needs to ask our administrators how much more can they sacrifice for the people who can’t advocate for themselves—our children. How much are they willing to give, to make sure we have the best teachers, who are properly compensated with the right resources, to help our children succeed? We need to make cuts that will not steal our teacher’s joy for serving in the classroom, and rob our children of an education. The time is now to dig deeper and find the answers quickly if we want to get our schools moving in the right direction and restore public confidence in spending limited tax dollars wisely.