The pain of excess, miscalculation, and the notion that it will somehow fix itself has conspired to create our local crisis in Prince George’s County. Martin Luther King said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Judging by my conversations with other Prince Georgians the general thinking is that challenging and controversial times are here now. Bold and focused steps are required by leadership across the board. We have seen where status quo has landed us, our public image, and our children’s educational future. It’s time to invest in our children!
The biggest factor in attracting homeowners and businesses is having competitive, world-class schools. Our current reality significantly reduces our leverage in a region that features other regional opportunities in other counties in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Educational research clearly defines the priorities in our course of action, we must be resolved as citizens to invest in them fully and demand the type of accountability warranted for the level of investment! The nationwide fiscal crisis and climate in which public workers currently find themselves conspires to further dilute our focus, causing further lament, discord, and tears over program and people cuts. Let me be blunt, we can’t cut our way out of Maryland’s statistical basement! To use a financial concept, it’s time to "double-down" on our school system, our most vital economic development engine!
Economic Development rises and falls on returning our schools to regional competitiveness. Our expectations are comparatively as high as those in the other jurisdictions, however our efforts for over the past 20 plus years simply do not match (state statistics on education funding by jurisdiction will confirm)! As we cut through to the bone of our school system during the fiscal 2011-12 budget, I implore all elected, ecumenical, educational leaders, and citizens to prepare to invest fully in what remains for us to build upon. Re-engineering is not required to fortify our foundation in this crisis, we must have a concerted effort to return to our fundamentals.
Fundamentally, we must turn Prince George’s in a direction that: 1) Invests in Universal Pre-K (even if it must be a ½ day program); 2) Keeps class sizes low, especially in our economically disadvantaged and low performing schools; 3) retains and attracts our best and brightest teachers and administrators, rewards their extraordinary performance and provides incentives for them to educate in our lowest performing schools; 4) comes to grips with our MIDDLE SCHOOL crisis and what it takes to turn them around; and critically 5) prepares us to pay the COSTS to be successful!
Over 30 years of status quo funding, compounded by an economic downturn, atop a decade of inconsistent executive leadership (Board & CEO) and exacerbated by questionable political ethics has led to our tears. If you think we’re crying now, I can assure you that we are not prepared for the pain we’ll endure if we continue with the status quo by remaining on our present course!