Question 1: Four Facts About the Casino Lock-Box Initiative

image (1).png

by Llew Brown and David Duba

The 2018 mid-term elections will be held Tuesday, November 6th, 2018. In this election cycle, voters will make a number of choices that will impact public education in Maryland for years to come. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that the first amendment listed on the ballot is related to education funding, a key issue across the country in 2018. This past spring, teachers participated in large scale protests and went on strike in six separate states. These protests were inspired by wages being below the cost of living for school personnel and inadequate budgets for classroom supplies. They coincided with an incident here in Prince George’s County involving the inflation of pay for central office employees, and the early closure of schools throughout the county during the first week of classes due to an inability to adequately cool aging facilities. Given the array of issues facing public education, it’s reasonable to ask, “Where will money to fix public school issues come from, and how can we ensure adequate and equitable funding?” Read further to review a bit of history related to the use of casino funds, and the potential impact of question 1 on the future of public education funding in Maryland.

What is Question 1?

Question 1 on the ballot proposes a constitutional amendment that requires the governor to use casino revenue to supplement funding for prekindergarten through grade 12 in public schools, beyond the minimum levels prescribed by current funding formulas. Sometimes referred to as the “casino lockbox” amendment, passage of this ballot initiative could steer millions of dollars from casino revenues to fund public education.

Didn’t the law already require casino money to support education?

In 2008, voters decided to legalize gambling in the state of Maryland. Revenue from taxes on gambling was since added to the state budget each year. However, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, general tax revenue that was used to fund education prior to 2009 has been regularly diverted from education funding as casino tax revenue has increased. Money that used to be spent on education from the general tax revenue is being diverted to other projects like road construction and employee salaries. Put another way, gambling revenue has replaced education funding, not increased it. By voting yes on Question 1, money from casino revenue will be used to supplement funding for education, per an amendment to the Maryland constitution.

How much money is at stake? How can the money be used?

Continue reading

Notes from the October 9 Budget and Operations Committee Meeting

by Lori Morrow

The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Board of Education Budget and Operations Committee met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, October 9. BOE Members present were K. Alexander Wallace (Committee Chair), Carolyn Boston, and Sonya Willams. Members Curtis Valentine (Committee Vice Chair) and Raaheela Ahmed were on conference call. The PGCPS Chief Financial Officer Mike Herbstman and Internal Audit Director Michelle Winston were also in attendance.

1.  The first agenda item was a review of the Committee Charter. Last spring, the PGCPS Board of Education unanimously passed Board of Education policy 8100 which did a full reorganization of the standing and ad hoc committees. The reorganization nearly doubled the scope for the Budget and Operations Committee, formerly known as the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee.

The larger scope for the Budget and Operations Committee includes business management services; human resources & talent development; information technology; pupil accounting, school boundaries & capital improvement (CIP); and supporting services. Last year mostly focused on Operational and Capital Improvement Budgets and Internal Audit.

2. The second meeting agenda item was the annual work plan for the Budget and Operations Committee:

The document outlines meeting dates and proposed topics for the committee this school year. There was a systematic request to meet twice per month from November to February as those are peak months in covering the Operational Budget. In the committee discussion, BOE members amended the work plan to add the topics of CIP, Public-Private Partnerships (P3), 21st Century Schools State Commission, and Procurement.

The Budget and Operations Committee will also be responsible for selecting locations for the January/February Budget work sessions and public hearings.

3.  Internal Audit Director Michelle Winston presented the annual Internal Audit report:

The report included a summary of FY2018 Internal Audit operations and the plan for the FY2019. Ms. Winston presented data on the 97 total financial, operational, and fraud audits; 309 hotline report submissions; and 61 property inventory assessments completed in FY2018. An estimated total losses of $16M were averted through audit activities.  Actual losses identified in the audits were $1.8M, with $1.1M of that in property assets. Property items continue to be researched on an ongoing basis.

Internal Audit is responsible for school activity fund audits, hotline & special investigations, and property inventories. Special requests for 2018 included the Human Resources salary increases and Bus Lot Transportation payroll operations.

Continue reading

How Schools Spend What They Have: Comparing the Budgets of PGCPS and Neighboring School Systems

by T. Carter Ross

When it comes to school spending, many people would agree that there is a need to increase funding for teachers, programs, and activities that have a direct influence on students. But how to achieve that is the difficult part.

To get an idea of exactly what Prince George’s County Public Schools spends and where, it is worth comparing how our school system allocates its funding versus other area school systems. Not that other systems are inherently better at how they spend money, but it is a way to benchmark and to look for ideas and opportunities.

PGCPS is the 21st largest school system in the nation (2014 data from the National Center for Education Statistics). It’s the second largest school system in Maryland and the third largest in the D.C.–Maryland–Virginia region. Montgomery County Public Schools is the largest school system Maryland and the 17th largest in the nation. Fairfax County Public Schools is the largest in the region and the 11th largest in the nation.

Because the Maryland State Department of Education requires county school systems to organize their operating budgets into standardized categories, it is relatively simple to compare how MCPS and PGCPS allocate their funds. (Adding FCPS to the comparison is more difficult because its budget does not detail spending in the same manner.) This comparison does not include the separate capital improvement budget each school system compiles annually.

Approved FY2019 Budget MCPS PGCPS difference
Administration $52,513,673 $71,750,345 $19,236,672
Mid-Level Administration $150,805,386 $129,343,441 $(21,461,945)
Instructional Salaries $1,020,207,902 $709,270,428 $(310,937,474)
Textbooks & Supplies $29,064,773 $18,237,720 $(10,827,053)
Other Instructional Costs $17,237,407 $83,104,311 $65,866,904
Special Education $346,234,807 $279,824,683 $(66,410,124)
Student Personnel Services $12,903,312 $22,612,038 $9,708,726
Health Services $1,590 $20,374,722 $20,373,132
Student Transportation $109,325,393 $107,688,015 $(1,637,378)
Operation of Plant & Equipment $140,888,137 $132,297,375 $(8,590,762)
Maintenance of Plant $38,122,427 $40,699,436 $2,577,009
Fixed Charges $609,638,690 $423,611,677 $(186,027,013)
Community Services $865,163 $3,300,272 $2,435,109

Continue reading

Changes in Capital Improvement Program Aim to Ease Overcrowding in Prince George’s County Schools

32430412_10156012172835546_3445186554534821888_n (3)

by Lori Morrow

The Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) team provided a presentation on Enrollment and Facility Utilization at the Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education meeting on May 10, 2018. The slides provided an overview of projected K-12 enrollment over the next ten years, including a breakdown by elementary, middle, and high school levels. The presentation also included maps highlighting the over- and underutilization of school facilities and challenges associated with each. (Video of the presentation here.)

Here are a few highlights of the presentation:

  • The overall PGCPS K-12 enrollment has grown by 6,000 students since 2010 and is expected to increase by 8,000 students over the next ten years. Enrollment projections are established using the Cohort Survival Methodology that uses three inputs: births; historical ratio of students progressing from one grade to the next; and development in the area that includes typical “pupil yield” from each housing type.
  • Overutilized facilities (operating above the state-rated capacity) are heavily concentrated inside the beltway north of Central Avenue, while there are more underutilized facilities south of Central Avenue.
  • PGCPS currently has 542 portable classroom units, or “temps.” Some school sites do not have space for any additional units. Forty percent of the portables are 25+ years old and have exceeded their standard life cycle. PGCPS is planning to purchase 25 new units, at an installed cost of $95,000 each. This is the first PGCPS purchase of new portables in over ten years.
  • The top three projects on the CIP list (International HS at Langley Park, William Wirt MS, and a new Adelphi Area MS) could take 4-5 years to complete based on historical funding for capital projects, which does not provide immediate relief to those areas. In general, boundary changes and programmatic changes (like adding the Aerospace and Aviation program at Duval HS) are quicker solutions to addressing overutilization than building new facilities.
  • CIP Director Shawn Matlock presented information about a new CIP delivery method, designed to allow the completion of more facilities in a shorter amount of time. The plan would use alternative financing methods including Public-Private Partnerships (P3). The private entity would build the facility and maintain the building over a 25-year period. This method could be used for five to seven facilities (not yet fully identified). (Video link here.)
  • Under the new CIP delivery method, some facilities would receive “staged renovations” using only local PGCPS/county funds. This could speed up the process by eliminating state involvement. The list of “Cycle 1” schools recommended for modernization, staged renovation, or new schools is included in the FY 2019 Amendments to the 2017 Educational Facilities Master Plan.
  • CIP staff explained the difference between overutilization (facilities that exceed State Rated Capacity) and overcrowded classrooms. Overcrowded classrooms can also occur due to underutilization, where the number of students does not justify funding through the Student-Based Budgeting to support additional staff even though classroom space may be available. This can be especially challenging at smaller schools.
  • CIP staff and CEO Kevin Maxwell explained some of the challenges in shifting a large number of boundaries southward to balance the northern overutilization. In addition to potentially increasing transportation costs as students are moved further from neighborhoods, shifting boundaries is not always supported by the will of the communities involved.

The FY 2019 Amendments to the 2017 Educational Facilities Master Plan passed as a first reader at the May 10 meeting and is expected to return to the agenda on the June 7 meeting for action as a second reader. The document elaborates on many of the topics discussed and includes lists of schools in the first EFMP cycle. In addition, it identifies 18 planning areas recommended for possible boundary changes or school consolidation. Community engagement and forums are expected to start as early as the summer and continue throughout the fall/early winter.

Continue reading

Making Sense of Student Based Budgeting

by Lori Morrow 

Last week, the principal at my daughter’s Prince George’s County elementary school presented information about Student Based Budgeting (SBB) at the monthly PTA meeting. She discussed projected enrollment, the current year’s staffing, and goals for next year.

Since the 2012-13 School Year, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) have used the SBB budget model, which gives principals more control over staffing at their schools. In late winter, principals receive their projected enrollment and funding for the next school year. The school is allocated a base amount for each student, with additional funding for students in early grades, english-language learners, and lower performance levels.

Through collaboration with staff and inputs from the community, principals must choose staffing that will work best to meet the needs and goals of the school. During our PTA Meeting, the principal asked parents for feedback in six areas: Academics/Instruction; School Safety; Attendance/Incentives; School Climate; Building Maintenance; & Parent Involvement. She will use these inputs to balance staffing and resources in her budget.

In the SBB formula, some positions are classified as “Locked,” meaning that the positions and resources are funded and staffed by PGCPS central office. This includes staffing for Principals, Special Education, Food Services, and certain positions in Specialty Programs. Certain positions are “Locked+”, which means that central office staffs a minimum for these positions, but Principals can supplement with SBB funds. One such position is Media Specialist. All remaining positions are “Unlocked” and must be purchased through the school’s SBB allocation.

image1 (1)

Continue reading

Prince George’s Schools Budget Questions Answered for FY 2019

Earlier this year, members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools submitted questions about the Fiscal Year 2019 proposed operating budget for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGPCS). The Office of Budget and Management Services, under the direction of John Pfister, has prepared answers.

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. What is the average per student cost of the specialty programs below relative to the cost at neighborhood schools without any additional programs?

  • Language immersion
  • Performing Arts
  • TAG [Talented and Gifted]
  • Montessori

The average per student cost for specialty programs is provided below:

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 1.18.04 PM

2. Does PGCPS have non-resident students that attend PGCPS schools (from DC, adjacent counties)? If so, how much funding does PGCPS receive from those jurisdictions?

In FY 2017, Prince George’s County Public Schools received the following funding from other jurisdictions for non-resident students:

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 1.20.25 PM.png

NOTE: Students identified in this chart may be prorated based on the days in a non-resident status.

3. Are there any programs/resources geared towards expanding language exposure in neighborhood elementary schools?

It is the intent of this administration, when financially feasible, to expand language programs at the elementary school level. Currently, the following schools offer a world language.

Barack Obama ES
Judith P. Hoyer Montessori
Montpelier ES
Melwood ES
Rosaryville ES
Patuxent ES
Oaklands ES
Phyllis E. Williams Spanish Immersion
Fort Foote ES
University Park ES
Ardmore ES
Berwyn Heights ES
Paint Branch ES
Greenbelt ES
Accokeek Academy
Capitol Heights ES
Glenarden Woods ES
Heather Hills ES
Highland Park ES
Longfields ES
Mattaponi ES
Valley View ES
John Hanson Montessori
Robert Goddard Montessori

4. Does funding for expansion/continuity of specialty program include additional transportation needs?

The funds to support the expansion/continuity of specialty programs does, when necessary, include additional transportation needs. The expansions that are currently included in the FY 2019 Proposed Budget, however, do not require additional transportation funds.

Continue reading

Three Upcoming Opportunities to Advocate for School Funding


by Llew Brown

In our personal life, we have lots of wants, but limited resources require us to make tough choices. In the end, the way we spend our time and money reveals our priorities.  If you want to shape the school system’s priorities for next year and beyond, follow these three tips and let your voice be heard:

#1: Testify at a School Board Hearing

The last of three Budget Public Hearings to be held by the school board this year is on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7:00 PM at Oxon Hill High School. If you register in advance to speak, you have three minutes to voice your concerns directly to the school board and CEO Kevin Maxwell. Find the proposed budget and timeline here:

#2: Speak at one of County Executive Baker’s Budget Listening Sessions

The next opportunity is  February 8, 2017, at Prince George’s Community College. To view dates for additional sessions, and to register to speak for three minutes, go here:

The County Council is hosting a Budget Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, February 20th

#3: Contact your State Legislator 

Several Maryland legislators are proposing changes intended to channel more casino revenues towards  public schools.  Here’s one article discussing the issue:

Learn what legislative district you belong to here, then follow the link below to contact your legislator and share your opinion on this issue.

Don’t delay: the budget bill for the current legislative session is due to be decided by April, 2018.