Angela’s Education Platform for Prince George’s County

Our children have limitless potential. Our job as adults is to create schools that nurture children’s innate curiosity and make learning an enlightening experience that prepares students for the world beyond school walls.

 

Thus, our County government’s most profound responsibility is the education of our children. We must send our children the message that they can be extraordinary. To do otherwise is “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in the words of a former president. We, and our school system, must demand and expect better for our children. For too long, we’ve tolerated subpar performance and unacceptable results—we cannot settle for less than other jurisdictions.

 

We are blessed to have teachers, administrators, parents, students, and neighbors who care deeply about the caliber of our schools, but we can do much more to support them.

 

As State’s Attorney, I recognized we had a major issue with daytime break ins to homes and cars and many of our defendants were young people who belonged in school. With this in mind, I began the I Belong Here Truancy Reduction Initiative. Currently, the program is in three middle schools that had some of the highest truancy rates in the county. Thanks to our efforts, we have improved attendance in these schools to well over 90 percent from the 60 percent range.

 

We have continued the Teen Court program that allows students to serve as judges, juries, prosecutors and defense attorneys (with assistance from our prosecutors) to hear cases involving offenses that their classmates have committed at school. Student judges or juries then hand down the punishment and the student who has committed the offense is able to complete that sentence, thus avoiding any contact with our juvenile justice system and a criminal record. An added benefit of the program is the opportunity to introduce our students to careers in the legal field.

 

We must depoliticize education in the county and completely focus on our students’ needs and those of our teachers and parents. Our full attention must be on K-12 education, but also on pre-kindergarten and child care services, making sure our children are ready to start school, vocational and technical education, college readiness, higher education offerings, and education/training for those already in the workforce. With our partners in higher education, labor, employers and–most importantly—parents, we will work to deliver the results our students deserve.

 

Our education budget reflects our priorities. My budget will direct resources to the most important part of our school system–the classroom. Because county tax payers deserve to know where their dollars are going, I will publish online budgets for each of our schools, along with the school system’s budget. I want everyone to see firsthand the decisions we are making and demonstrate our commitment to putting resources in the classroom.

Angela’s position on the Education issues:

An excellent education begins with great teachers and should support them in anyway we can. Of course, our school system needs competitive salaries to attract and retain talented staff. But we must acknowledge the impact that our policies have on teacher morale—and our students and their families.

  • We need to develop a smarter approach that both protects students and supports our teachers. For example, the school system has well-meaning rules in place to address past issues of abuse, which is commendable and critical. However, these attempts at regulation of teacher behavior may have gone too far. A large number of teachers have been unnecessarily put on leave. The result has been disruptive to students, families and classrooms. We have made it too hard for great teachers to connect with students and their families in a meaningful way. In the future I hope we can be more thoughtful.

We need to examine how we spend our education dollars, starting with how much of our budget goes to administration.

  • If we can cut down on our management costs, it will mean more money for our classrooms.
  • Reducing bureaucracy could mean less paperwork for our teachers, potentially giving more time to our children.
  • Streamlining our school system can increase its effectiveness. For example, our current hiring process is so time consuming we risk missing out on qualified teaching candidates because they cannot wait long enough for us to hire them.

Let’s make sure that our students are ready to learn when they enter our public schools.

  • Investing resources in pre-kindergarten education is money well spent. Studies have shown that kindergarten readiness is a leading indicator of a child’s eventual school performance. This is essential: if a child is not literate by the 3rd grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of school.
  • We need to offer pre-kindergarten to all our children because too many of them are entering kindergarten not prepared to learn. I know that this is part of the Kirwan Commission’s initial recommendations (Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education) and I will wholeheartedly support it as the County would need state support for such an initiative.
  • Early literacy is an essential part of school readiness. Parents are a child’s first teacher. Recently the county library system began Books to Birth, a program where new parents are periodically sent a new book to read with their children. Programs like this should be widely promoted and duplicated. In addition, the county should partner with non-profits to provide online tools to assist parents.
  • Our schools are an opportunity to directly and positively engage in the lives of our students and our families through social workers. School-based social workers can intervene when students are struggling, connecting families to supportive programs and a safe place where students can go in times of trouble. They are often critical in supporting a student’s ability to learn, particularly when students face challenges at home.

We must ensure that students interested in pursuing a higher education degree are well-prepared and, in some cases, have a head start on that degree.

  • We should enhance the County’s support for non-profits that guide students who will be the first in their families to attend college through selecting and applying for college and degree programs. This is especially important for those first generation college bound students and their families as they are unfamiliar with the process.
  • The county currently offers a middle college, which is a program that includes college preparatory classes in a specific field. This “3D” program enrolls students in the school system, Prince George’s Community College, and the University of Maryland University College. Programs like this give our students a head start on their preferred course of study. Broadening the various areas of study offered will give more students a head start on higher education.
  • We must also make sure that our academic programs fit the student’s needs. Courses must challenge our students, but if a student needs more assistance we cannot promote them solely for the sake of moving them up a grade. This does not benefit our students as they often must make this work up in remedial classes. Our scholastic programs must be rigorous and prepare students for higher education if that is their choice.

CTE, often referred to as vocational training, must be part of our education plan. Currently, 23% of state wide students graduate with an independently approved or CTE credential; Prince George’s rate is 10%, the second lowest in the state which has a goal of 45% by 2025. Clearly, we are not doing enough to create viable and thoughtful CTE programs in the county.

  • We only have to scan job listings to see the demand that exists for trained workers. These are jobs that pay well enough to create a path to success and financial stability, and the needed training typically requires little or no student debt. Students can be paid for participating in youth apprenticeship programs and move into full time jobs after completing their program.
  • Our support for CTE programs should start with a shift in our attitude. My father was a truck driver, a profession that deserves as much respect as any I know. Plumbers, electricians, and carpenters build everything from our greatest buildings to our own homes though CTE isn’t just for construction occupations. CTE students can learn job qualifying credentials in nursing, IT, finance and many other occupations. We will support learners seeking these positions just as we support all of our citizens and students striving for a better life, from offering classes in our public schools, our community college, and by expanding programs with local employment partners.
  • A vibrant Career and Technical Education program demonstrates that we, as a county, are willing to work with employers to develop a pipeline of highly skilled workers to meet their hiring needs. This is a strong incentive for employers to consider establishing a location in our county.
  • We need to have schools dedicated to comprehensive CTE programs in addition to programs that are a small part of an existing school’s curriculum. We can use existing schools after hours, school buildings no longer in service and utilize some of our county’s vacant office buildings.
  • We should replicate State programs to promote vocational education. Maryland recently created new financial aid programs for students seeking community college training opportunities, as well as state credits for employers who create apprenticeship programs. We should replicate this financial aid program at the county level too.

Great teachers, programs, and buildings are necessary but not sufficient for an outstanding education. Character education reinforces the lessons parents teach at home by emphasizing good values and behavior.

  • As a parent, I know that children need much more than just pencils and paper to learn: they need to know how to be respectful of their teachers and their classmates and how to tell right from wrong. Families teach their children these skills, and our schools can be their ally. This pays dividends in both our schools and in our children’s lives outside of the classroom.

We should work closely with our partners at the University of Maryland, Bowie State, and the Prince George’s Community College. We need them more intimately involved and invested in our county’s public education.

  • The University of Maryland is a partner in the College Park Academy. We should work with our partners at the University and other universities to increase this type of offering county-wide.
  • In addition, we should work to increase the number of education students from these colleges training and student teaching in our public schools. Perhaps we should offer tuition support in exchange for good teachers staying in our schools for a period of time after graduation.

Let’s create a reason for every school to be special and in demand by multiplying our most successful programs.

  • We all know that there are some schools in the county where demand exceeds the number of available seats. If a school is popular because of a particular program, then we should extend that program to other schools.
  • Every school should have something unique and interesting that makes students and parents excited to attend. And, as a bonus, we can eliminate waiting lists.

 

I would like to see the school system consider and potentially adopt more kindergarten through 8th grade (K-8) schools.

  • 6th-8th students often benefit from the more hands-on approach available in elementary schools, as this can be a better fit for the learning needs of children who have just reached adolescence.
  • At minimum, we should examine if more K-8 schools would be appropriate for Prince George’s County.

No parent, child or caregiver deserves a transportation system that fails to perform.

  • All too often, bus service for our school students doesn’t live up to our standards. From late buses to missed bus routes, we can and must do better.
  • We need to evaluate all facets of bus transportation operation, then significantly increase its reliability and performance.

I will work with our partners in Annapolis to get the funding we need to continue to invest in our school system.

  • The State of Maryland contributes a large portion of our school funding. The Prince George’s County school system needs those funds for academic programs and for building improvements to our aging schools. I will vigorously fight any effort to roll back the state’s contribution to our schools.
  • The Kirwan Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education is currently charged with making recommendations to make Maryland’s education system competitive nationally and internationally. Many of the recommendations would be benefit Prince George’s County: increased aid for at-risk students, greater individualized instruction and a greater emphasis on providing the support that teachers need and deserve. These are encouraging recommendations and I will work to ensure that the state puts these into practice.
  • Too many of our facilities are outdated and over crowded and do not deliver the quality educational experience that our students deserve. The state plays a key role in funding new or renovated school facilities and we must advocate for increased state aid, particularly for schools which are build more efficiently.
  • We also must consider innovative ways to build, operate and maintain education facilities. Currently, the school system and the legislature are exploring how public private partnerships can build and maintain new and rehabilitated schools more efficiently. Any method that will help us improve the condition of our school facilities is worthy of discussion and we should actively pursue any and all options to do so.