UPPER MARLBORO — A review of the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) budget at the Prince George’s County Council’s Education and Workforce Development Committee budget work session gave specifics about teacher compensation and what the additional funding for fiscal year 2020 provided from the state through the Kirwan Commission’s Blueprint For Maryland’s Future will go towards on April 24.
Funding given for fiscal year 2020 through the Blueprint For Maryland’s Future totals about $53 million, the second-largest amount of any county in the state, and will go towards six areas.
However, PGCPS Interim CEO Monica Goldson made it a point to note that there are specific requirements that PGCPS must meet to use the funding.
“Instead of people getting extremely excited, I want to make sure people understand I look at them as grants because we do have to be able to provide specific strategies that we’re going to utilize in order to use those funds,” Goldson said. “We must be accountable for the decisions we make in utilizing them and be able to use measurable outcomes to determine that we’ve effectively used those funds,” Goldson said.
For the first category, the Teacher Salary Incentive Grant Program, PGCPS must provide a three percent salary increase to teachers, specifically teachers of first to fifth-grade students. Only then will the school system receive an additional 1.5 percent to give from the Blueprint For Maryland’s Future.
The Concentration of Poverty Grant will go to 45 schools with an 80 percent or more Free and Reduced Meal program application rate from the 2017 to 2018 school year.
Funding must be used for adding two new positions to these schools: a professional healthcare practitioner who will provide behavioral support to students and families, and a community schools coordinator. The remainder of the funding will provide wraparound services in those schools.
The Supplemental Pre-K program of the Blueprint For Maryland’s Future will be set with expanding existing half-day to full-day pre-k programs. PGCPS previous had all full day Pre-K but had to reduce to half day and has been in the process of restoring it ever since. There are now 38 half-day sites.
“This funding will allow us to begin that process of reducing the number of schools that are half day to full day and beginning a pilot in the southern half that have additional entities that have been a full day for several years,” Goldson said. “But now we can open it up to eligible seats for those parents who were not part of the eligible income category.”
For the Education of Students With Disabilities program, PGCPS must come up with strategies for implementing processes for individualized education plans for special education students as well as begin educating and providing support for parents.
Finally, the Transitional Supplement Instruction portion, funding has been provided to support struggling learners. Funding must be used in three categories: one-on-one small group tutoring, cross-age tutoring and identifying and closing literacy gaps.
“In essence, most of that money is already spoken for because of the state law requirements,” said County Council Chair Todd Turner.
“So it’s not an additional $53 million we can use for anything, we have to use it consistent with what the state law requires us to use it for…Now, obviously that helps, and some of this will help us a little bit short-term, but we’re not going to be able to use everything right away because of various issues according to space, teachers and those kinds of things as part of that.”
Financial Auditor Inez Claggett from the county Office of Audits and Investigations gave an overview of the rest of the PGCPS operating budget which totals about $2 billion, the largest allocation of money from the county’s total budget. That is an increase of $44.9 million over the fiscal year 2019 budget.
The total operating budget proposed by the county executive is also $22.6 million more than what the Board of Education initially requested when they submitted their budget several months ago.
Expenditures for fiscal year 2020 are expected to increase by $44.9 million, Claggett said, in areas such as teacher salaries, special education and transportation while food subsidies expenditures are expected to decrease.
PGCPS staff brought to the committee 10 additional categories that they found needed to be added to the budget after their original submission of the budget.
These include school psychologists, social service workers, a financial literacy pilot program and French immersion pilot program. In total, these changes add $10.6 million to the list of expenditures, some of which are covered by the Kirwan Commission funding.
“Based on our expenditures and our revenue, knowing that, it was important to note that we still have a $22 million budget deficit that I must work with the team to begin to close that gap to ensure that we’re still able to function as a school district, meet our priorities, but make sure that it’s aligned with our focused target,” Goldson said.
Expenditure requirements for teacher salaries reflect an increase in the budget due to adding more full-time positions as well a negotiated salary increases. The school system will add 245 new positions, half of which will be teachers.
PGCPS is currently negotiating salaries with their teacher’s unions, and those contracts will have to be ratified by June 30, according to Claggett. However, the school system has made no commitment as of March for compensation adjustments to employees not represented by bargaining unions.