Education Part 2: Successes, Challenges and Solutions for Prince George’s County Public Schools (K-12)
Friday, October 7th, 2016 @ 5:09PM
Serving nearly 130,000 students, the Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) system is the second largest school district in the state of Maryland, the third largest school district in both the Washington Metropolitan Area and Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, and one of the top 25 largest school districts in the nation. PGCPS encompasses 209 different schools and centers and employs approximately 19,000 people. We face a unique set of challenges, and can be proud of some significant successes.
Size and Socio-Economic Challenges
Our students come from a wide array of backgrounds. This diversity allows students the opportunity to experience many cultures and to hear many languages. It prepares them well for the increasingly global society and workforce.
That same diversity also presents a variety of challenges. Reflecting the country’s poverty level, 64% of our students are on free or reduced meal plans, far above the statewide average of 46%. Further we have far more students (15%) for whom English is their second language than other counties, adding an additional barrier in the learning process for teachers and students.
These realities are compounded by the fact that PGCPS is often unfairly compared to surrounding school systems which simply do not face the same challenges that our school system does.
While funding alone does not constitute a successful school system, improving facilities to reflect an environment that promotes excellence is a cornerstone of improving any education system. PGCPS is seeing significant growth in both its capital and operating budgets. (The operating budget covers expenses required day-to-day functioning; In contrast, the capital budget covers expenses that are incurred now to create a benefit in the future. Examples of capital expenses include the purchase of fixed assets, such as new buildings or equipment and upgrades to existing facilities.)
Capital Budget for PGCPS
The 2017 Prince George’s Capital Improvement Budget (CIP), one of the largest in Maryland, will deliver more than $152 million to improving school facilities. This funding is made up of approximately $106 million from the county and $46 million is state appropriations.
In addition to new school construction and major renovations, many schools will see significant upgrades and additions. In fact, nearly half (91 of 209) of county schools will receive major funding for facilities improvements and renovations this year. This includes 40 new playgrounds at early childhood education centers and elementary schools, and athletic facility upgrades including new tracks, turf fields and tennis courts at several high schools.
Results of State and County Commitment
In FY 17, the Maryland State government committed over $1.3 billion in operating funds for Prince George’s County. That is largest allocation to any county within in Maryland. Combined with the county’s commitment, the FY17 operating budget for PGCPS stands at over $1.8 billion.
And we are seeing the results of those commitments:
- After dropping in 2012, the graduation rate has steadily increased to a high of 78.75 in 2015 (the latest year for which rates are available).
- Prince George’s County Public Schools are home to 22 different specialty programs including International Baccalaureate, Even Start Family Literacy Program, Talented and Gifted Education, Language Immersion Programs and Career and Technology Education.
- The system offers 12 different career academies. Students are able to train for Law, Education and Public Service, Architecture and Design, Engineering and Science and Homeland Security and Military Science to name just a few.
- This year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities for students and teachers included the 2016 K-12 STEM Symposium, The Woman in Engineering Dream Conference, the Rising 9th Graders Invention Project and 27 others.