Prince George’s school board approves $1.8 billion budget -- Gazette.Net


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The Prince George’s County school board approved a $1.8 billion fiscal 2015 education budget Tuesday night, with much of the focus being placed on adding Spanish immersion and expanding other specialty programs.

The budget — which also included adding parent liaisons and expanding French immersion, Montessori, Talented and Gifted and full-day pre-kindergarten programs — must now go to the county executive and County Council for approval.

“Not everyone got what they wanted, but given what we had, we all gave it our best shot,” said board chairman Segun Eubanks. “We know that to be great, we need to do more than this budget represents. This is a big step forward, but we have a long way to go.”

Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said the budget incorporates much of his vision for moving the school system forward.

“We’ve talked about expanding programs of choice for parents, more rigorous instruction for parents, higher salaries for our employees for the retention and recruitment concerns that we have,” Maxwell said. “All of those things are going to contribute to higher success for our schools.”

Maxwell’s budget request is approximately $48 million more than his original request in December, due in large part to an anticipated increase in state and federal funding, and is more than $113 million more than the current fiscal year’s $1.69 billion approved budget.

Maxwell’s budget draws $43 million from the school system’s approximately $141 million fund balance.

Board member Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) said she was excited about the budget, while mindful of the $400 million in cuts the school system has endured over the previous seven years.

“I don’t take lightly what we’ve had to endure in the past, but I absolutely take it to heart that the future can be brighter in this county for our school system,” Jacobs said. “I’m just delighted that we have the opportunity to have money flowing into our school system.”

Maxwell’s budget includes the creation of two full Spanish immersion and one dual-language Spanish-English specialty schools and added seating in the existing French immersion, Montessori and TAG programs, as well as the creation of elementary and middle school International Baccalaureate programs.

The budget also includes 61 parent liaison positions — individuals who help parents navigate the school system — and the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten from eight to 32 schools.

Additional funding for the arts and environmental studies, and an additional $54.5 million for instructional salaries was also included.

“Most importantly, we did not forget the leaders in our schools, our administrators, in that we included compensation for teachers, our staff, our principals in this budget,” said board member Amber Waller (Dist. 3).

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is expected to release his proposed fiscal 2015 county budget on March 13. The school board will reconcile its approved budget with their requested budget in June and have the final budget approved prior to July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net