UPPER MARLBORO — Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) then-Interim CEO Monica Goldson announced a plan that will allocate $53 million to enhance programs and educational experiences throughout the school system on June 11.

The announcement was made prior to Goldson being selected to the CEO role full-time on June 18.

The Blueprint For PGCPS gives details as to where the $53 million given to the school system through the recently passed Blueprint For Maryland’s Future will be allocated.

The Blueprint For Maryland’s Future begins to implement the recommendations laid out by the Kirwan Commission, also known as the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence In Education, giving $325 million in 2020 and $750 million in 2021 to each county in the state based on need. Prince George’s County received a total of $53 million for fiscal year 2020, the second largest amount of any county.

The Blueprint For Maryland’s Future mandates that counties have to use the funding to build on specific categories such as teacher compensation, special education and expansion of pre-K. Counties must meet a specified list of criteria before the money becomes available to them.

“Over the past year, I frequently traveled to Annapolis on your behalf to uplift the great work happening across Prince George’s County Public Schools and advocate for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a proposed $750 million education investment with more than $53 million now coming to Prince George’s County,” Goldson said.

The large expansion of school funding was not signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who in a letter to the General Assembly on May 15 called the methods for implementation of the recommendations “short-sighted” due to increased expenditures without fiscal safeguards. The bill was overwhelmingly supported by the House and Senate.

“Our state representatives heard our voices, passing landmark legislation that creates an environment where our students and educators can thrive, leading to better outcomes for all students,” Goldson said.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the $53 million in funding will be divided into six different categories.

About $11 million will be allocated toward high schools with the most need. That includes expanded wrap-around services to 45 schools with the highest amount of students living in poverty. These services include the addition of more health care practitioners, social workers and counselors. It was also fund extended learning programs and transportation services.

For the expansion of pre-K, the Blueprint for PGCPS gives a little over $14 million. That will include increased access to full-day pre-K programs for nine schools throughout PGCPS with the hope of giving families a chance to build a strong foundation for their students. Additionally, a universal pre-K pilot program will be launched in 17 schools.

The $83,333 allocated toward mental health services will give additional funding to 45 schools for certified mental health therapists. The PGCPS Mental Health Coordinator will also assist with guiding staff through mental health first aid training.

Mental health has been an ongoing topic of conversation throughout the school year between school psychologists and PGCPS administration. School psychologists have been active in attending Board of Education meetings to voice their thoughts on the need for better mental health services in the school system, which includes more school psychologists to alleviate the immense workload current psychologists have.

Alyssa Kaufman, a school psychologist at Benjamin Foulois, Gwynn Park Middle School and Fairmont Heights High School spoke at a Board of Education meeting on Jan. 24 and said the Prince George’s County average of school psychologists per student over half the recommended 500-700 students per psychologist at 1,451 students per psychologist.

“Significant increases in staffing psychological services will better support our children’s social, emotional and behavioral needs and ultimately their academic success,” she said.

The most significant portion of funding for the Blueprint for PGCPS goes to teacher compensation at about $13 million. That goes toward a restorative salary increase for all employees who lost compensation steps between 2009 to 2012 due to the economic recession but remained with the school system.

PGCPS teachers have also been very outspoken this year regarding increased salary, raising awareness by organizing their Teacher Un-Appreciation Day protest and participating in the countywide March For Our Schools.

In their most recent success, the Prince George’s County Educators Association (PGCEA) was able to come to a contract agreement with PGCPS where, in addition to the restored salary losses, they were able to come to an agreement on other issues they face such as smaller class sizes, restorative discipline practices and less testing.

“We are excited that the hard work and organizing of our members have gotten us to a contract that they overwhelmingly support,” said PGCEA President Theresa Mitchell Dudley. “This contract benefits students, educators and communities. It is a step towards ensuring that Prince George’s County can provide world-class schools for all of our students.”

The Blueprint For PGCPS goes on to allocate about $10 million towards supporting students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP). That includes implementing the IEP’s along with more teacher planning time and system-wide staff training on compliance and supports.

Finally, the new plan puts forward $4.8 million in support for students who struggle with reading.

That involves the creation of a new digital literacy program with evidence-based strategies to help students who struggle with reading. This program will be implemented in 53 schools in kindergarten through third grade and includes one-on-one tutoring, peer tutoring, screening and addressing literacy deficits and new technology.

“As the 2018-19 school year comes to a close and we begin preparations for next year, I am excited about the promise this funding provides. Together, we are building PGCPS into a model school system and allowing more students to aim high,” Goldson said.

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