Prince George’s County School Board voted 8 to 1 Thursday to approve Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley’s $1.69 billion dollar budget, which includes school library funding increases and establishes a reserve for employee salary and benefit increases to aid in teacher retention.
The $23.5 million reserve will be determined following negotiations with employee unions.
Kenneth Haines, president of the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, commended the school system for the increase, which he said would “help forestall the hemorrhaging of our most-qualified teachers to surrounding school districts.”
Improving school library collections was a main topic during three budget public hearings and helped draw attention to the need for more library funding.
Genevieve Clemens, library media specialist for Tulip Grove and Heather Hills elementary schools in Bowie, said that the average copyright date of books at Heather Hills is 1995.
“I have books where Russia does not exist, but the USSR does,” Clemens told the board at the Feb. 19 public hearing.
Crawley’s initial budget for media support — the purchase of books, magazine subscriptions and software — at $250,000, or approximately $2 per student, the same funding as in the FY2013 budget, but after hearing testimonies from library media specialists and school board members, the amount was increased to $495,000, or approximately $4 per student.
Board member Peggy Higgins (Dist.2) questioned if the school system should count on the same degree of county funding as last year — approximately $633.1 million, given the county’s estimated $152 million budget deficit. Several county officials have said that education and public safety are under consideration for cuts.
“From the conversations we’ve had with county administration, when it comes to making priorities, education K-12 is at the top of [County Executive Rushern Baker’s] list,” said Thomas Sheeran, acting chief financial officer for the school system.
Board member Carletta Fellows (Dist. 7), the dissenting vote, said she still had questions on the budget.
Higgins said if Fellows required answers to questions regarding the budget, “you could have gotten them at any of the three public work sessions that were held and you chose not to attend.”
The school board will now submit the budget to Baker’s office and will vote on a final version by June 30.