While the Prince George’s County school system will absorb a small budget shortfall, it won’t affect CEO Kevin Maxwell’s plans including staff additions, class size reductions and creating three English-Spanish immersion schools.
During the June 12 school board meeting, Maxwell said the $6 million difference between his $1.8 requested budget and the budget approved by the Prince George’s County Council can be reconciled through internal adjustments.
“We’ll be able to do all of the things next year that we wanted to do. We’ll be able to accomplish bringing up the new programs we want in place, to accelerate learning, to reduce paperwork, to add staff [and] lower class size,” Maxwell said.
The school system’s legal expenses are less than anticipated, and the system has found $3.2 million in energy efficiency savings, said Thomas Sheeran, acting chief financial officer for the school system.
“Throughout the budget process, we’re always trying to reevaluate our numbers, making sure we’re not missing anything,” Sheeran said.
The Board of Education is expected to approve the final changes to the budget during its June 26 meeting.
Maxwell’s $1.8 billion budget is 6.7 percent higher than the previous year’s budget, and includes $44 million for new programs and program expansions, including the creation of three new Spanish language and dual English-Spanish immersion schools, with a total of 300 available kindergarten seats, 250 additional seats for Montessori and French language immersion, 295 additional Talented and Gifted center seats, and 300 seats for International Baccalaureate programs.
The budget also includes funding for arts and environmental studies education and for the addition of 61 parent liaison positions.
The Prince George’s County Council approved the CEO’s requested budget, one of the largest in the school system’s history, with little change.
“This was the easiest budget reconciliation I’ve seen in years,” said Kenneth Haines, president of the county teacher’s union.
School board chair Segun Eubanks agreed, attributing it to the close cooperation between the county and school system.
“This is the first time in a while with absolutely no changes, and with a tremendous amount of support, both public and private,” Eubanks said. “The school board, the school leadership, the County Council and the county executive are all on the same page, making the kind of investments that we need to make to really move our schools forward.
David Cahn, co-chair of the education watchdog group “Citizens for an Elected Board,” said increased funds need to be accompanied by improved openness and engagement with the community in order to improve educational outcomes.