School systems are certainly not safe from the economic downturn. Employees of the Prince George's County school system are learning that lesson the hard way.
Interim School Superintendent William Hite wants to pare down the 2009 budget to $1.7 billion. That's about $1.4 million less than the current fiscal year. To reach that number, he is proposing big cuts -- including eliminating 917 positions, increasing class sizes in grades 1-3, and closing or consolidating six county schools.
"Our goal is to protect the classroom at all costs, and to pool scarce resources where possible to insure that all students are supported," Hite said Wednesday night.
The rollbacks are the result of declining revenues from a shrinking tax base in the county.
Hite says most of the jobs to be eliminated are currently vacant. However, some cuts, including some assistant principals and school-parent liaisons would affect current employees.
Prince George's County schools have seen improved performance over the past five years, and now some parents are concerned that that progress will be hindered.
Hite says some of the savings will go back to programs deemed to be making a difference.
"We're proposing a budget that focuses spending on programs and services that have yielded significant improvement in student achievement," Hite says.
The school system will hold a series of public hearings before a final plan is put into place.