Prince George's County D9 Politico Blog

Keeping politicians accountable and voters informed.

Comments to the County Council Regarding the PGCPS Budget

with 7 comments

From the May 11, 2011 County Council Public Budget Hearing:

Good evening Chairwoman Turner, Vice-Chair Olson, honorable members of County Council, County staff, and fellow residents. My primary reason for being here is that I am a concerned parent worried about how funds are being spent on our schools. The School Board had to make many painful cuts that were approved in their FY 2012 budget. While some monies have been restored, hundreds of Prince George’s County Public Schools teachers have been told that they no longer have jobs after June 30, 2011. Fewer teachers means more students in every classroom, and I’m sure you know that means for the quality of my children’s education.

Meanwhile, the School Board convinced us that if we went to Annapolis and requested that $20 million be reinstated into their budget, they could avoid teacher layoffs. We did that, and the Maryland General Assembly reinstated $14 million of the State’s contribution back to Prince George’s County budget, while the County Executive committed an additional $17 million in his proposed budget. They have now received an additional $31 million, which puts them back at the 2011 funding level. So why are teachers, guidance counselors, media specialists, and other educators still being laid off? This is one of many unanswered questions you must address before you approve the final FY 2012 budget.

When you’re looking for answers to these questions, I suggest that you begin by examining the 723 PGCPS staff who make more than $100,000, because only 51 of those employees are directly involved in educating our children. Many central office staff are mid-level bureaucrats who do no demonstrate any value added in achieving the goals of the School’s Master Plan or put children first. Additionally, these central office staff are directly to blame for the mistakes that were made in hiring foreign teachers that have cost tapayers $5.9 million in federal fines and back wages. I urge you to ask Dr. Hite and the School Board to look at where else cuts can be made and keep teachers in our classrooms.

I’ll end by sharing a quote I have used as I have traveled around this county speaking about this issue: ” We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, but we forget that he is someone today.” My oldest daughter will be entering kindergarten soon, and I have made the difficult decision to enroll her in a private school, because I have lost faith in our public schools’ capacity to provide her with the best education. Please restore my confidence by asking tough questions about the PGCPS budget now, because we can’t afford to wait until tomorrow for the answers.

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Written by pgd9politico

May 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. Excellent points! Have you heard any indications from the Council if they are interested in pursuing this kind of approach with the school budget?

    I went to my PTSA meeting last night instead of the public hearing. I did hear that there may be some interesting behind the scenes maneuvering going on related to the potential layoffs.

    RF

    May 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    • I would love an update on the layoffs if you hear anything more on that front. I did hear back from our Council representative this morning to request a copy of my comments. I am pretty sure I got everyone’s attention based on the reaction from the crowd last night, so stay tuned.

      pgd9politico

      May 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  2. I believe the school board budget included the assumption the county council would allocate an additional $25 million to the school board. The county is required by maintenance of effort to increase its education funding by a minimum of $14 million from last year.

    If you review the county budget, they are providing an extra $14 million as required.

    http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/Government/AgencyIndex/OMB/Proposed_Budget_FY2012/pdf/board-education.pdf

    The school board has actually received $11 million less than the county than it expected. The $14 million from the state offsets that and provides for an extra $3 million.

    You also need to factor in that one of the cuts the school board made was to end busing for specialty and magnet schools, saving $7.3 million dollars. The school board has since rescinded that cut since their replacement fee system was deemed unworkable.

    The reality is there is little to no additional revenue the school board is working with, their numbers are not terribly different from the budget they originally passed.

    The 723 making over $100,000 is not terribly high, take the number of schools in the county and assume three people (the principal and two assistant principals) make over 100k. You’re close to the 672.

    Bill

    May 13, 2011 at 4:20 am

    • Bill,

      Thanks for the clarification. At the County Council hearing, nobody except Henry Armwood seemed to be aware that the School Board had rescinded the cuts to specialty transportation. Many parents showed up to discuss their concern on this matter, so if this has since changed, nobody from PGCPS has communicated that to parents.

      The problem I have with the salary issue is that as I pointed out in previous blog entries, we have many people in the central office who are actually quite overpaid, in my opinion, and represent the 723 number. Check out the division I examined, where $90,000 secretaries and $75,000 data entry clerks are on the payroll and one division of HR had several of the 41 employees making over $100,000. Those people are not going anywhere, while teachers are being laid off (and could only to hope to make that much money after many years of service, even though their jobs are the most important ones in the system).

      Furthermore, the person who took over as Chief of Human Resources was a former staffer in the Office of
      General Counsel, so to me, when PGCPS engaged in illegal hiring practices, she should not be quoted in the Washington Post defending the school system, but be fired. The $5.9 million we now have to pay in fines and back wages is huge, considering the deficit we are facing.

      PGPCS has floated by with stimulus funds and minimal furloughs for the past two years instead of fixing the structural budget problems that exist. Numerous questions about the budget still remain, if you examine my entry about “Our Questions on the PGCPS budget.”

      As Senator Benson stated at the public hearing, parents would far prefer that the central office be eliminated before more teachers are laid off. I will gladly pay more taxes to ensure my child enjoys a world-class public school education, but I’m not going to do it while $90,000 secretaries remain on the payroll to answer Dr. Hite’s phone calls. I think you would agree.

      pgd9politico

      May 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

    • Also, I would like to make one more quick point. I have worked for a local government for 10 years, and I can tell you for certain that when times are tough (such as the recession we are now experiencing), I have often observed senior managers place the most successful, valuable programs on the chopping block instead of cutting the fat from their budgets, especially in terms of personnel. They do this because they know it will generate the kind of public outcry that pressures politicians to give them more money, because they know that elected officials generally do not have the political courage to make cuts to programs that people care about, especially those that impact children. That may not be all that’s going on here, but I do believe PGCPS leaders are also savvy enough to recognize how to sound the alarm when they don’t want to make the cuts that are necessary right now.

      pgd9politico

      May 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  3. Thanks for these responses. You are right on the money. We can not afford to sustain $90,000 secretaries and $75,000 data entry clerks who are on the payroll and several of the 41 employees making over $100,000. It’s time to cut the fat. There is a lot of drama behind the scenes involving this budget. Dr.William Hite Jr is only trying to sound the alarm. We must continue to push the buttons until everything is clear.

    Moses

    May 17, 2011 at 3:58 am


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