Prince George’s County schools CEO Kevin Maxwell has proposed a $1.75 billion budget, which includes plans for a Spanish immersion program, specialty program expansions and the restoration of parent liaison positions.
“I hope it’s very clear to the people who’ve been coming to forums, who’ve come to the meet and greets, who have come and spoken at board meetings, that we are listening, that we are responsive, that we’ve heard them describe the things that they hope to see in our school system for their children,” Maxwell said.
The proposed budget for fiscal 2015, presented to the school board Dec. 12, is $65.6 million greater than the current year budget, or 3.89 percent. Fiscal 2015 begins July 1.
Although Maxwell’s budget includes a $12.5 million increase in the request for funding from the county, the bulk — $46.9 million — of the increase comes from the school’s carryover fund balance.
“Our fund balance is around $140 million, so we’re talking about a pretty big chunk. So we need to look at that very closely,” said board chairman Segun Eubanks. “At the same time, many of the things in this budget are things we as a board have been saying, ‘We’ve got to have these things to move our school system forward.”
Maxwell’s budget includes $21.7 million for new and expanded programs, including doubling the number of full time pre-kindergarten programs in the county from eight to 16.
Maxwell said plans include expanding a small kindergarten and first-grade Spanish Immersion program at Capitol Heights Elementary to include other grades and “re-energizing” the dual-language immersion program at Cesar Chavez Elementary in Hyattsville.
“We’re also going to open up another Spanish immersion program, but we haven’t quite settled yet as to which school,” Maxwell said.
Gina Bowler, co-founder of My Bilingual Child, a Spanish immersion advocacy group, said she is looking forward to more specifics.
“It is more than any other superintendent has offered,” Bowler said.
Maxwell said there will also be funds for an expansion of the school system’s existing Talented and Gifted, Montessori and French immersion programs, which receive more applications each year than the number of available seats, according to school officials.
Maxwell’s budget includes $25.2 million for workforce development as well, including a reserve for negotiations with unions and for professional development.
“We’re going to add teachers that we need as we continue to deal with enrollment increases and we have some things in here both to reward teachers and to provide some additional supports,” Maxwell said.
In addition, Maxwell’s budget includes $3.45 million for the funding of 61 parent liaison positions. Parent liaisons are staff members who help parents navigate the school system and help mediate issues related to student discipline in schools. The parent liaison positions were eliminated in fiscal 2011 due to budget cuts, except in schools that used Title I funds to retain the positions, Maxwell said.
Although there was no opportunity for public comment during the budget introduction, the school system has scheduled three public hearings on the budget — on Jan. 27, Feb. 19 and Feb. 25 — prior to the board approving and submitting a budget to the county executive on March 1.