There has been some interesting discussion on how to improve our local public school.
I believe this discussion came after the City Council weighed in at the last Council meeting whether to spend an additional $80K to our the schools where our College Park students go. The council did not approve the proposal. If approved, it’d have been an additional grant in addition to $60K we’ve been already spending on our schools.
As a whole, the Council is not against supporting our schools. Most of the Council members are debating whether we should be putting more money into schools, or we should work with the County and our neighboring cities to contribute more to making our schools better.
As you know, our public schools are managed by the County; City does not manage them. These schools are attended by not only College Park students but also students from our neighboring municipalities around us, such as Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Berwyn Heights, etc. For example, all of the middle and high schools are located outside of College Park. However, There are opportunities for most of our neighboring cities to contribute to these schools, even though they are located in their own cities.
Last night, I attended Council member Mary Lehman’s Town Hall meeting at the Hollywood Elementary School, where the County’s FY17 budget was discussed. During the discussion period, we talked about our school system and how the municipalities can collectively help enhance the standards. Mary Lehman was supportive to the idea of forming a coalition among the local municipalities and the County and discuss how the County and the towns can contribute jointly to make our schools better. CM Lehman told us she can spend her time if such a coalition is formed and offered her help from the County side.
In the end, our collective goal should be to get more supplemental grants for the schools where local students go.
The problem with these grants is that they amount to an additional tax on residents of College Park, who already pay their fair-share into the school system through their County taxes. No one wants to deny the local schools support, but the idea that just writing checks and throwing money at them will have any positive effect is naive.
Between FY13 and FY15, College Park fed an astounding $240,000 worth of grants and assistance into the College Park Academy alone (in addition to the $325,000 given to its founding organization, the College Park City-University Partnership), while providing grants totaling about $60,000 a year to ALL the other schools, combined. Last year, something changed, and the Academy refused another $80,000 donation which had been budgeted from the City for FY16. This is the money that is being talked about now. The other schools are still getting the same level of support from the City that they have had for the past several years.
If the City really wants to help the County schools, they should work with other municipalities to assist PGCPS in reforming their entire organization. The problem isn’t that adequate resources aren’t being allocated to the school system; it is that the money disappears before it ever reaches classrooms.
We need to concentrate resources where they will have the greatest impact, going forward. Pension system reform, and a massive overhaul of the school system’s administrative bureaucracy are ultimately what is going to clear the path for money to reach the students. The goal should NOT be to procure more grant money for the schools, which invariably amounts to a tax increase on residents; the goal should be to help ensure that the money the system gets is actually being used toward education, rather than feeding into a bloated administration, or covering perpetual shortfalls in the pension fund.