Adrion Howell has strong connections to the Prince George’s County public school system. The 43-year-old lobbyist’s mother taught in the schools for 35 years, and Howell attended school there and worked as a substitute teacher in the county before going to Howard University Law School.
But, like many other middle-class parents in Prince George’s and in urban school districts across the country, when the time came for Howell’s daughter, Aaliyah, to attend Glenn Dale Elementary School, he instead enrolled her in a private school.
With Maryland’s second-largest school system poised for a leadership overhaul and a reconfigured school board next week, one of the major challenges facing County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is how to convince the county’s middle class that his approach to fixing the schools will be successful enough to lure their children back into the public schools. Parents, particularly those who have opted out of the public schools for what they think is a better education elsewhere, say they are closely watching the transition.
Prince George’s has experienced middle-class flight before, when white families departed as the black population grew. But in what is now one of the wealthiest predominantly black counties in the country, more and more affluent black families have turned away from the public schools. Experts say the trend in Prince George’s is similar to what has happened in other large school systems that have struggled academically: The loss of middle-class families has led to a higher percentage of poor students using the public school system, less local accountability and waning community involvement.
Princes George’s taxpayers spent $1,664,442,000 for 124,000 students, or $13,422 per student during the 2013 school year. Madison spends about $14,451 per student (latest 2012-2013 budget is about $394,000,000) for 27,095 students (including Pre-k).