PGCPS budget: Financial literacy classes, millions for raises and new positions

Board members in Prince George's County Public Schools unanimously passed a budget for the 2019-2020 school year that includes a financial literacy pilot program and millions for additional employees and employee raises.

The financial literacy program would fund classes in money and budget management in one high school next school year to test out a program that could be rolled out at every high school.

"As a young person who's been through our school system, went to college and had to go on to the real world, I see financial literacy as something that every single student and graduate needs," said board member David Murray.

"Sixty-four percent of our students are free or reduced (lunch) which means they live in poverty," said board vice-chair Edward Burroughs. "Parents cannot pass down what they do not know, so it's so important that we teach our students practical lifelong skills."

Burroughs said he wants the pilot to precede making financial literacy a universal graduation requirement.

The financial literacy pilot is just one aspect of the school system's $2 billion budget that was just approved by the board and now goes on to the county executive and county council for approval. The final budget will be passed this summer.

The board's budget also includes $46 million for employee compensation in an effort to prioritize salary increases.

"Right now, there's a feeling among teachers and employees in our system that they're outmatched by their counterparts in neighboring counties and jurisdictions," said board member Joshua Thomas. "So we want to just make sure our employees feel appreciated."

The budget also adds money to decrease class sizes by adding more teachers and aides, and a mental health amendment provides $4 million for additional school psychologists and social workers.

The school board in Prince George's County has been known in recent years for division, conflict and controversy, but on Thursday, members came together to unanimously approve the budget.

"The consensus that you see represented here this evening regarding the priorities for our children, makes me feel real good as the new chairman of this board," said board chairman Dr. Alvin Thornton at the meeting.

"I'm so proud to serve on a board that's working together," said Burroughs.