Heading Toward the Finish Line with the PGCPS Budget
I attended the Prince George’s County School Board’s final work session on Satuday, February 19, and I know many of you have been waiting for the details of what was presented and what more can be done before the School Board is scheduled to adopt the budget on February 24. While I am not jumping for joy just yet, I do think Dr. Hite showed me that they are working harder to identify legitimate cuts that should be made before we all hop on a bus and journey to Annapolis to beg for more money from the state.
Here is an overview of our revenue and expenditures:
- Our revenue breakout: 54% come from state funding, 39% from county funding, and 7 % from federal funding
- Our expenditures breakout: 65% on salaries on wages (but no comparison between admin and teacher split); 18% on benefits; 8% on contracted services; 7% on operating costs; and 2% on supplies and materials
Dr. Hite also summarized our top priorities, which are maintaining current class sizes and retaining highly effective teacdhers and leaders (but I’m not sure how they identify who they are). He stated that the budget does not include any furloughs for teachers or administrators, and that he is getting ready to renegotiate all contracts to address compensation structures. Dr. Hite stated, “We value teachers and their work; and our compensation philosophy should communicate that.” Bravo, I agree. Furthermore, we should take steps to ensure that our administrative functions are not bloating the system with overpaid bureacrats who have no direct responsibility for educating our children.
Dr. Hite then presented additional budget cuts that will result in further reorganization of the central office to save $34.4 million and eliminate 283 full-time employees (FTEs). CORRECTION: New comment points out that my original post is misstated. The central office originally cut $31.7 million, and what was proposed on Saturday was an additional $2.7 million. We still have alot more work to do!
Major new cuts that were presented during the meeting include:
- Merger of Fiscal Compliance and Budget Management Services, eliminating three FTEs and saving $300,000
- Merger of Payroll and Benefits, eliminating five FTEs and saving 450,000 (They plan to move pay stubs to online documents and provide self-service management for employee benefits, leave requests, direct deposit, etc. Many jurisdictions do this already).
- Reorganize Communications into a single department with one director, eliminating seven FTEs and saving $560,000. Some concern was expressed about whether the 14 staff were sufficient to deliver the same level of services. My answer to that question, based on my professional experience, is yes! Be creative about using online communication, hire free and capable interns from the University of Maryland to help out (I have done that for years with great success), and recruit capable PGCPS students to pitch in with television and video production (if they aren’t doing this already).
- Here’s the big one: Use existing FTEs to create three Associate Superintendent Offices and 14 Community Superintendents (each responsible for about 15 schools). Combine School Leadership and Teacher Leadership into Office of Talent Development, which will be placed under the Department of Human Capital. School Improvement and Title One will be merged into a Department of State and Federal Programs. These mergers will result in the elimination of 57 FTEs and save $5 million.
Based largely on School Board member concerns and public outcry at the recent public hearings, Dr. Hite decided to put the following programs back into the budget:
- JROTC (but limit course offerings and eliminate some positions, which will save $1.4 million instead of the $2.8 million originally proposed)
- Evening High School
- Unemployment Insurance (costs expected to rise $1.6 million due to impending layoffs)
- Technical Adjustments: Class Size increases targeted away from high schools and core subjects; Reading Recovery may be saved through use of Title 1 funds, and Schmidt Center saves more money than originally anticipated.
- Transportation to specialty schools could be included back in the budget, but Dr. Hite is examining hub-based systems (central points for student dropoff/pickup for buses) and fee-based systems (sliding scale based on income)
I think alot of the proposed changes make great sense. My heart tells me Dr. Hite is working hard to listen to public concerns and making a genuine effort to figure out how to cut administrative bureacracy that doesn’t contribute to our children’s education. My head tells me the original budget was designed to create public outcry and put more pressure on the state to fully fund our schools. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in-between, but I walked away satisfied in knowing that my comments on administrative salaries hit a nerve with many people (thank you all for your feedback!) and that many of the additional cuts were directed at that concern.
Here’s a final thought for those of you getting on the bus to Annapolis: please take a careful look at the flyer that PGCPS provided to you. When you review the groups that are supporting this February 21 rally, you’ll see a variety of unions supporting this effort: Prince George’s County Educators Association, SEIU locals, Administrative School unions, etc. What I don’t see is a union that represents who is most important – our children. There are many, many talented youth who graduate from our school system each year. I interview some as candidates for admission to the Ivy League university I graduated from, and I’m always impressed by what they have accomplished in their first 18 years of life. They were successful from a combination of factors, starting with engaged and dedicated parents who advocated on their behalf every step of the way, great teachers who inspired and challenged them, and a community that provided them opportunities to excel. They can’t achieve any of those things if we as a community are unable to set aside our personal or union agendas to look out for our children. That must be our goal, and our ultimate outcome from this budget must be doing what’s best for them.