SPRINGDALE – The budget process is in full swing for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), and one group of teachers is asking for a little more support during the upcoming school year. Last week, the Prince George’s County Board of Education held the first of three budget work session and public hearing meetings at […]
SPRINGDALE – The budget process is in full swing for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), and one group of teachers is asking for a little more support during the upcoming school year.
Last week, the Prince George’s County Board of Education held the first of three budget work session and public hearing meetings at Charles H. Flowers High School. The other two meetings will be held at Northwestern and Oxon Hill high schools to bring the discussion to the people, said Board Chair Segun Eubanks.
“Thanks to the members of the family and community engagement committee and our budget committee, we thought it important not just to sit at Sasscer (Administration Building) and let you come to us, but to come out to the community and come to you, to make it as convenient as possible,” he said.
During the work session, board members were able to ask questions and get answers about the budget, specific line items and the goals of specific spending. Members of the board asked about the preschool expansion, executive cabinet salaries, food services, the Family Institute, school psychologist to student ratios, language immersion expansion, the future of textbooks and transportation services.
The community came with a number of questions, too.
Parents asked about money for maintenance for specific schools, for the school system to reassess its priorities, and to get clarity on the future Talented and Gifted program centers.
However, the largest group gathered at the meeting came to ask the school system for more support for the special education teachers, staff and students.
“I want you to increase the funding for special education beyond the amount proposed in this year’s operating budget,” said Melissa Blodgett, a PGCPS special educator. “Special educators are leaving the county and the field of special education in droves.”
Blodgett said special educators are faced with dual roles in their careers. They must spend time on lesson plans and classroom interactions, as well as 12-14 hours a week on compliance paperwork for their caseload.
Theresa Brown, a special educator for approximately 30 years, walked the board through a typical week for a special education teacher. Her list included several hours outside of school hours dedicated toward working on student individualized education programs, quality reports and lesson plans.
“I’m often at home, spending my weekend time working several hours off the clock. So please, I beg you, continue to fund and earmark funding for special education teachers,” she said.
Many of the advocates gathered for special education asked for more support for special educators by hiring additional staff to help manage teacher caseloads to prevent burn out.
Sheena Washington thanked the board and school staff for the proposed increase over previous year’s budgets, but said more support is needed to attract and retain quality teachers.
“The overwhelming amount of time required to complete paperwork diminishes the amount of time we have to provide support to the classroom with less specialized instruction to the students with disabilities,” she said.
Charolette Spencer, another special educator, shared those sentiments and said, much like the Lorax, she felt she needed to speak for students with special needs.
She said she joined the school system 10 years ago with the “naïve idea” that she could make a difference in the lives of children by becoming a parent liaison and paraprofessional.
Since then, she has seen the needs the autism program has and also wants to see more funding for special education to provide adequate staffing.
“I’m still naive enough to believe that together we can make a difference,” she said.