More Questions Answered on FY 2018 Budget

A previous post featured budget-related questions from the community, along with answers prepared by the Office of Budget and Management Services, under the direction of John Pfister. These questions were submitted in advance of the Jan 23 PGCPS Budget 101 Event, co-sponsored by PGCPS and Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

Five additional questions, submitted after the Budget 101 Event, and their answers, prepared by the Office of Budget and Management Services, are found below (and available in PDF format here). It may be helpful to refer to the proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2018, found here.

1. Are total budgets and/or school based budget amounts per each school available anywhere? Either proposed amounts for next year or actual amounts for the current year. It would also be interesting and helpful to see actual per student funding for each school.

The school based budget for each Prince George’s County public school is available on our website at:

http://www1.pgcps.org/sbb/sbb2017.aspx

2. What exactly will the proposed charter school program expansion entail (37.6 FTE, $3.9 million additional funding)?

The FY 2018 proposed budget includes $3.9 million and 37.60 FTE to support existing charter school enrollment increases and the expansion of grade levels at the following Charter schools:

  • Chesapeake Math and IT Academy (6-12) – adding 10th Grade
  • College Park Academy (6-12) – adding 11th Grade
  • Imagine Foundations Phase II (Morningside K-8) – adding 8th Grade

3. There is a significant proposed increase for the per pupil allocation for charter schools (page 71 of the budget document), from $9,812 to $12,977. What explains this?

The overall increase in the per pupil allocation (PPA) for charter schools is directly related to the $122.6 million budget proposal for FY 2018. Although this is a proposed budget, the Charter School – Per Pupil Allocation Formula takes this amount into consideration when projecting the FY 2018 allocation. The PPA will be revised based on the Board’s requested and approved budgets.

4. PGCPS spends over $50 million per year to send students to private schools. I believe this is for special needs students. Has there been an evaluation if it would be more cost effective for PGCPS itself to provide at least some of these services?

The non-public budget for PGCPS is $53 million. In an effort to address this area of concern, PGCPS’ Department of Special Education conducted an analysis of the disability categories served in non-public schools in FY 2016. The analysis was conducted to determine which disability categories are predominately served in non-public schools. Results indicated that, of the 847 students served in non-public schools, 39% had a specific learning disability. The data indicated that these students are served in non-public schools to address their needs in the area of reading. In an effort to address this concern, the Department of Special Education is in the process of examining the use of appropriate reading interventions to ensure students with deficits in this area can be served within the school system.

In addition, due to the rising increase in the number of students with autism, the Department of Special Education is preparing to consult with a national expert to develop and design services to address the needs of students with significant cognitive and behavioral needs. This multi-year plan will enhance and expand access to services within the school system.

5. At the Budget 101 session, it seemed somewhat unclear what the budget plan for building maintenance is. Is there an overall increase or decrease in building maintenance expenditures? Which specific line items related to building maintenance are being adjusted and what is the reasoning for those changes?

In the FY 2018 proposed budget, there are two significant increases in the overall budget for Building Services. The line item for Maintenance Supplies was increased as well as the line item for Overtime. Both of these increases were made to reflect historical spending levels.

You may find the first set of community questions and answers regarding the FY 2018 Operating Budget here

Every Comment From the Jan 24 Budget Hearing

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The Prince George’s County Board of Education held its first public hearing on the fiscal year 2018 operating budget on January 24, at Charles Herbert Flowers High School. A Board of Education budget work session immediately preceded the hearing.

Fifteen members of the public spoke at the hearing. Their comments are recapped below:

  1. At 1:45:23 in the video, special educator: Increase the amount of funding for special education beyond what is proposed in the budget. “Special educators are leaving the county and field of special education in droves.” Special educators spend twelve to fourteen hours a week on legally required compliance paperwork. “Time spent on compliance paperwork is time spent out of the classroom and away from servicing our students.
  2.  At 1:48:02, special educator, paraprofessional in autism program: Adequately budget for our special education and autism programs. Our special education programs are not adequately staffed to safely manage the students. Special educators are close to burnout. “How many times must I document that a student ran away or tried to throw himself down the stairs before an additional staff person is approved? Also, when a specialist comes to observe our students to assess staffing or proper placement, why not have him or her actually do the job for an entire day instead of making an assessment based on a 15 or 20 minute slice of time?”
  3. At 1:50:57, special educator: It has become increasingly hard to do the job without adequate staffing. Describes a “day in the life of a special education teacher,” including assessing newly referred students to special education, writing IEPs, preparing paperwork for meetings, collecting data, collaborating with teachers, completing follow-up paperwork for IEP meetings, writing progress reports, providing assessment accommodations for students, as well as general school duties such as lunch duty. It is often necessary to spend several hours over the weekend working on
  4. At 1:53:42, special educator: “Special educators often fulfill two distinct jobs: We’re case managers, and we’re specialized instructors. However, we only have 45 minutes of planning time to fulfill these dual roles. . . .The overwhelming amount of time required to complete paperwork diminishes the amount of time that we have to provide supports in the classroom, with less specialized instruction for students with disabilities. . . I’m here today because so many of my colleagues leave the field of special education each year, due to the overwhelming pressure of compliance, as paperwork often becomes a priority over teaching.” Increased special education funding is needed for additional special educators, instructional specialists, and IEP clerks.
  5. At 1:56:43, parent of 9th grader at Bowie High School who has recently transitioned from private school: “As my daughter complained about sweltering classrooms at the start of the school year and frigid classrooms last month, I have to ask, is academic excellence really a priority? As my daughter has had a substitute teacher for science the entire semester and about three weeks for math, I must ask, how can we expect her to excel on the standardized tests . . . ?” Pay attention to a hierarchy of needs. There are tough choices to be made. Should such items as culture training for teachers (at around $610,000) and additional world languages funding ($1.2 million) compete for basic needs such as heating and cooling, or instruction in math and English?
  6. At 1:59:45, parent of a 5th grade Heather Hills Elementary student: There is confusion surrounding next year’s placement of some rising middle school Talented and Gifted (TAG) students from Heather Hills Elementary. Students who had anticipated attending the TAG center at Kenmoor Middle School next year received a letter stating that they must enroll in the TAG program at Benjamin Tasker Middle School instead. However, there has been no other mention of a TAG center at Benjamin Tasker Middle School. After numerous phone calls, parents were able to learn nothing about a potential TAG center at Tasker. The request is that students should be permitted to remain at Kenmoor until the TAG center at Tasker is fully operational.
  7. At 2:02:24, community member and parent of PGCPS alumni: Was hired in 2011 as a senior purchasing specialist, and subsequently discovered and reported waste, fraud, and abuse in the school system. The Strategic Plan implemented in 2016 and scheduled to go through 2018 does not actually address the goals of academic excellence, high-performing workforce, safe and supportive environments , family and community engagement, and organizational effectiveness. “How is it that we have a plan that went from 2016 to 2018, and you have not shown us any data or statistics that support what you’re doing?”
  8. At 2:05:25, community member and “watchdog advocate”: The budget document contains several discrepancies, and it is difficult, in some cases, to track where the money is going. For example, 17 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions are listed at a cost of $2.8 million to develop the Strategic Plan and obtaining grants in support of the plan.
  9. At 2:08:13, student at Whitehall Elementary School: School lacks adequate heating. “It is hard being so cold in my classroom. Sometimes when I write, I shiver . . . It can be hard to take tests too, because all I can think about is how cold I am.”
  10. At 2:09: 14, PTA president at Whitehall Elementary School: There are currently 833 open work orders related to heat for the 208 schools in the county. Whitehall’s heat is not working properly, even after months of requests for repairs. Classroom temperatures have been documented to be as low as 49 degrees, and kids are wearing coats and long johns in the classroom. Whitehall Elementary is overenrolled, with 576 students at a school that has a capacity for 420 students. “Please consider allowing room in your budget to repair so many of our buildings that our failing your scholars. You cannot continue to have high expectations academically while requiring such low maintenance standards of yourselves.” 

Continue reading

FY 2018 Budget Questions Answered

Monday’s budget information session was a lively event, with more than 50 attendees and a slew of questions about funding for such areas as maintenance and repairs, Pre-Kindergarten education, Student Based Budgeting, and transportation. In advance of the event, the Office of Budget and Management Services, under the direction of John Pfister, prepared answers to 29 questions that members of the community had submitted.

The questions and their answers are found below (and available in PDF format here). It may be helpful to refer to the proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2018, found here.

1. Is there any increase or decrease in the amount of funding proposed for home and hospital tutors and/or one-on-one aides?

There has been no request to increase or decrease in the level of funding for home and hospital tutors for FY 2018.  To date the funding level is projected to remain the same as FY 2017.

2. Is special education instruction receiving additional funding under the proposed budget?

Yes, there was an increase of $2.6M in Special Education for FY 2018. This increase in funding for Special Education will provide supplemental resources such that budgeted amounts will support anticipated costs based on prior year expenditures. 

3. How much is budgeted to pay substitute teachers and how does that compare to prior budgets?

The FY 2018 Proposed Budget contains $16.8 million for substitute teachers as compared to $17.4 million for the FY 2017 Approved Budget and $19.7 million for the FY 2016 Approved Budget.

4. The Budget in Brief Document reflects a decrease in Federal funding in the amount of $6,493,626. Is this the loss of head start funding? Is there funding included in the proposed budget to make up for the lost federal head start funding? What’s the earliest that this funding could be restored from the federal government?

The decrease in Federal revenue of $6,493,626 in the Budget in brief reflects the loss of funding for the Head Start program. There is no funding in the proposed budget to replace the federal Head Start program funds. However, current students in the Head Start program will be absorbed into the district’s existing Pre-K program at a cost of $5.1 million and require additional staffing of 68.0 FTE. If the district were to seek Federal funding for the Head Start program, application for the funds would have to occur by May 1, 2017 and would cover the time period of August 1, 2017- July 31, 2018.

5. Focus Area 1: Academic Excellence includes Diversity Specialist & Supports at a change of $289,568. Does this represent the salary of one person?  How much of this is salary, not including benefits?

The Diversity Office increased by 1.0 FTE under the Interpreting and Translation Services. The FY2018 Proposed budget includes a 1.0 FTE for an ELL Family Engagement Specialist at an estimate cost of $ 76,608 plus $ 30,975 in benefits. Interpreting and Translation Services proposed an increase of $ 181,985 to support existing contracts for translation. Language Links and Transact need additional funds due to increased use.

6. Focus Area 2: High-Performing Workforce: What is a Mentor and Peer Assistance & Review (PAR) Teacher? (7 FTE’s, $813,775)

The Mentor and Peer Assistance & Review (PAR) Teacher includes Mentor Teachers to provide coaching, demonstration lessons, shared lesson planning and professional development sessions for teachers with a focus on Framework for Teaching. COMAR regulations (13A.07.01) recommends a maximum ratio of 15:1 (mentees/mentors), and this additional staffing will allow PGCPS to get closer to meeting that recommended ratio. The Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program uses expert teachers to provide regular, consistent support to struggling new teachers to ensure their future success in the classroom.

7. Communication Specialist (Board of Education), $140,423 – Is this a newly created position?

The Communication Specialist in Board of Education Office is a newly created position proposed for fiscal year 2018.

8. Overtime supporting services $6,000,000. Please describe what this pays for? How does this compare to the amount spent on this expenditure last year?

The FY 2018 Proposed Budget includes $6.0 million to support overtime in the division of Supporting Services to align the budget closer to historical expenditure levels.  This brings the total appropriation for all funds for FY 2018 to $9.1 million.   These funds are to support overtime for Transportation, Maintenance and Plant Operations.  Overtime within these departments has been increasing due to absences, mid-day runs and additional routes. Expenditure for FY 2017 were $12.1 million. Management is researching alternatives to reduce overtime usage in the future.

Continue reading

Notes on the Jan 19 Board of Education Meeting

by Laura Rammelsberg

To view the agenda for the January 19th Board Meeting in BoardDocs, go here.

Board Members Dr. Segun Eubanks (chair), Dr. Beverly Anderson, and Dinora Hernandez were not present.

At 5:13 in the video. Elimination of Creative Writing Program at Hyattsville Middle School next year is being discussed, and many members of the public were present to show their support for the program. Families are in the dark about why the decision is being made and came to get some answers. The BOE Member representing that school’s district is not present. Disagreement amongst board members whether to add it as a discussion item this evening. Many BOE members expressed concerns that more information is needed and discussions need to take place with the Administration before it is discussed at a BOE Meeting.

At 15:25. Motion to put Elimination of Creative Writing Program on as a discussion item, proposed by Juwan Blocker.
4 yes, 7 no. Motion not passed.

At 18:02. Video shown celebrating the arts integration program in PGCPS. PGCPS is the only school system with an Arts Integration Office.

At 23:16. BOE Member Wallace commended Head of Security Services Rex Barrett and his handling of incident outside of Suitland High School last Friday. He also publicly thanked Barack Obama Elementary School and three students received a certificate of recognition for the help they provided 1,000 homeless children in the community with care packages that students collected and made.

At 28:52. Report of the Chair (Boston)

Whitehall Elementary received MD State Department of Education EGATE School Award which recognizes Gifted and Talented Programs (click here). She congratulated the school.

Sign up for Text Alerts for Weather Delays / Closures.

Series of public hearings on FY2018 Budget:

  • Jan 24 Charles Flowers HS Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Jan 31 NW High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 7 Oxon Hill High School Work Session 5:00 pm / Public Hearing 7:00
  • Feb 22 Next BOE Work Session. 

At 33:52. Report of the CEO

Discover PGCPS event highlighted showcase of Immersion and Art Schools at Eleanor Roosevelt HS.

Eight High School Students received a full Scholarship to College.

Jan 23 6:30 – 8:30 Budget Walk Through for parents at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. No RSVP is required. Spanish interpreters will be available. 

At 35:57. BOARD COMMITTEE REPORTS

Identified top 5 budget priorities for FY2018:

  • Early Start – Pre/ K
  • Expansion of teaching staff
  • Literacy and Math
  • Transportation / Bus Drivers
  • More Maintenance Workers

PUBLIC COMMENT ON AGENDA ITEMS – 2 Speakers

At 40:40. Accokeek Academy Parent. Proposed boundary changes to school. Consensus approach is Option B that was presented to CEO which would create new K-8 school. The CEO is proposing to move forward with Option A – changing boundaries. Community does not agree.  It does not make Accokeek Academy a K-8 school. Having feeder schools defeats the main purpose of the school. Ms. Williams tried to find a plan the community would be happy it, which is Option B. The boundary changes splits Accokeek neighborhoods – some away from the Academy. Asked CEO to choose Option B. Ft. Washington Elementary PTSA supports Option B as well. Need to find a new long-term solution (new school).

At 43:54. Ft. Washington Elementary School last renovation in 1969 – nearly 50 years ago.  School requires maintenance now.  Photos were sent to School District.   Why does it take half a year to paint and replace things in the school?  Minor fixes.  All 2016 / 2017 work orders should be done by 2018.

PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS – 21 Speakers (comments are combined in some cases)

Beginning at 46:10. Hyattsville Middle School – Creative Writing Program 
Current students, including President of Student Council, spoke of their experience – students should be able to participate in the CPA Creative Writing programs. Creative Writing is the backbone for other arts. Students experience a level of writing and reading that they don’t in other classes. This program makes Hyattsville unique.  It’s not offered in other CPA schools; that is the reason they are told it is being taken away.

Many families have had positive experience at Hyattsville Middle School, especially with the refinement of CPA (and Creative Writing) program. Parents are drawn to the school because of that program and parents are upset it might be eliminated. Parents asking that the CPA major be continued.

Continue reading

PGCABS to Host Budget Q & A Session

by Tommi Makila

Budget season for Prince George’s County Public Schools is in full swing. The CEO’s proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is now available on the PGCPS website. If you don’t have time to read the whole budget, consider reading the introduction, which includes specific changes in expenditures compared with last year’s budget (p. 16-19), as well as information on capital improvement projects (p. 20-24).  A less-detailed Budget in Brief document is also available.

Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools (PGCABS) is hosting, in collaboration with PGCPS staff, a question and answer session about the proposed operating budget on Monday, January 23 at 6:30 pm at Ernest Everett Just Middle School. This will be an excellent opportunity for interested residents to pose questions to the PGCPS budget office staff about the proposed operating budget. PGCABS hosted a similar Q&A session on the budget last year.

Questions about the budget can also submitted in advance of the meeting by clicking here (or send an email to pgcabschools@gmail.com). PGCPS budget staff will prepare answers in advance of the meeting. Emailed questions need to be submitted by Monday, January 16.

The Board of Education will host three public hearings during which residents will have an opportunity to comment on the CEO’s proposed budget. These hearings will be held on January 24, January 31, and February 7, at 7 pm. To sign up to speak at the hearings, call the BOE office at 301-952-6115. Each speaker will have three minutes to make his/her comments.

Journey to Kindergarten: We’ve Arrived!

This is the sixth part of a series documenting the steps one family is taking to prepare for their son’s entrance into kindergarten next year. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, and Part 5 here

by Gail Z.

20160406_080252 (1)We’re nearing the end of 2016 already, and are moving into the second part of the school year. It’s flown by so fast, but we are enjoying — and surviving — kindergarten!

Our son has adjusted well. He loves his teacher (she really is great), he has some favorite classes (computer and P.E.), and he is doing really well. We are just as pleased today as we were when we visited the school back in the spring. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • It’s run like a well-oiled machine. From weekly parent communication folders used to send home everything from important calendar dates to information about community happenings, the school’s superstar staff has not missed a beat. And speaking of staff…
  • Every encounter with staff has been positive. I have called and visited the front office, emailed my son’s teacher, walked into the building unsure where to go and have always received a pleasant response/answer.
  • They host wonderful events. My husband ranted and raved about Danishes for Dads, a program held one morning in October to honor the men in the student’s lives. Our boy surprised my hubby by reading a few sweet sentences he’d written about him.
  • An Active PTA. So far, there have been two dances, a book fair, a holiday gift shop, a fundraiser, and Chick-Fil-A and Chuck E. Cheese night. I love that there are parents like me who are so actively involved.

We are so happy and blessed to be having such a wonderful experience thus far. We look forward to watching our boy grow and mature in his time at his new school and will be looking forward to his brother joining him there in just a couple of years.

Elections 2016: Ahmed, Burroughs, Eubanks, Wallace, Murray Win Board Seats

Five seats on the Prince George’s County Board of Education were up for grabs in today’s general election. Incumbents Edward Burroughs (Dist. 8), K. Alexander Wallace (Dist. 7), and Patricia Eubanks (Dist. 4) successfully defended their seats on the Board, while Raaheela Ahmed won the open seat in District 5. David Murray ran unopposed for the District 1 seat, after his opponent moved out of state.

Here are the Maryland State Board of Elections unofficial results for the five school board races in Prince George’s County:

Continue reading