UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Council held its final public hearing for the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget on May 7 where members of the community came to ask for support for various organizations and services.
Over 100 people testified at the public hearing asking the council for funding in the upcoming budget, such as CASA who came to the meeting to urge that the county council move forward with funding the construction of schools in the community over the next few years, particularly in the Adelphi and Langley Park areas.
With schools in these areas reaching over 125 percent capacity, they said, the council cannot delay any further with providing the students in these schools adequate learning facilities. They also asked that the council move forward building a permanent school for the International High School at Langley Park.
“We need to provide adequate resources, and that includes adequate buildings for students to learn in, and we want to see more students achieve academic success and be prepared for the college and career of their choice,” said CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres.
In addition to advocating for school construction, members of CASA/Prince George’s County came forward at the meeting to ask the council for funding for their Transitional Youth Services program, where they assist children who are aging out of foster care and are unprepared to live on their own.
Fiscal year 2015 was the first year that the program received funding from the county and since then they have been able to serve 52 percent more children than they did before, said CASA/Prince George’s County Executive Director Ann Marie Binsner. She asked the council to fully fund their fiscal year 2020 request as it is “in the best interest of children and youth.”
“It is a pleasure to serve as a CASA volunteer, and I would not have it any other way,” said Charlean Rice who has served as a volunteer for CASA for eight years. For seven of those years, she took care of Victoria Nelson who became the first of her siblings to go to college. Rice said she is now working with another young lady through the program to help her become just as successful.
“Foster kids, they need somebody to say ‘I believe in you,’ to say ‘you’ve got this.’ You can become somebody no matter what negative things people say about them,” said Nelson as she testified that she would not be the person she is today without CASA.
Also in attendance at the meeting was Glenn Dale resident Jacqueline Beale asking the council for a $47,000 grant for Hope Connections For Cancer Support, an organization that offers free services for people with cancer including emotional support and family services. In the past, they received support from the county for their African Americans with breast cancer support group.
“We have the trophy, and we don’t want it because we have the highest mortality rate of any county in Maryland,” Beale said. According to her, African Americans in Prince George’s County face the highest rate for breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
Also, in the realm of health care, Catalina Sol came to request support from the council for La Clinica Del Pueblo. According to Sol, 33 percent of the organization’s patients are Prince George’s County residents, many of whom do not have health insurance and have not been to a doctor in their adult life. Because of this, La Clinica Del Pueblo offers life-saving services to the community.
A few people came to advocate for the University of Maryland College Park’s Educational Opportunity Center which offers counseling, information and technical assistance for those looking to attend college.
Joel Solorzano said that because of the Educational Opportunity Center, he was able to become the first person in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree after attending UMD.
Abigail Dina, a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, will be attending Morgan State University in the fall and will also become the first in her family to go to college because of the assistance she received from the center.
“As a student of a magnet school, we typically have a lot of situations where people assume that we don’t need help because we have a lot of resources in our own neighborhood…I believe programs like this are very necessary for students because sometimes it is kind of overlooked that we do need that type of help,” Dina said.
Many members of the Prince George’s County Educators Association (PGCEA) came before the council to request that they fund catching the county’s teachers up on missed salary steps. However, Susan LaCourse went to the meeting independently to speak on behalf of substitute teachers.
LaCourse, a teacher at Francis Dukes Early Childhood Center, said a union did not represent her because she is a substitute teacher, but substitute teachers are also severely underpaid and often overlooked.
“When I began teaching in the county in 2007, substitute teachers with a college degree were paid $100 a day. Now, 12 years later, we are paid $102 a day.”
LaCourse said if she worked every single day of the school year, her salary would be $18,360 gross with no benefits and would be less if she didn’t have a college degree. Additionally, substitute teachers are required to attend mandatory training without compensation.
Other organizations such as Habitat For Humanity, Capital Area Immigration Rights Coalition, The Prince George’s County Food Equity Council, The Port Towns Development Corporation, Liberty’s Promise, The National LGBT Chambers of Commerce and more, as well as quite a few individuals, came before the county council during the four-hour meeting to ask for assistance through the upcoming budget.
The county council must adopt the budget by June 1 and it will go into effect on July 1.