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Baltimore County superintendent's $1.65 billion budget plan calls for cutting back devices at elementary level

Interim Superintendent Verletta White introduced a proposed $1.65 billion operating budget for Baltimore County Public Schools on Tuesday, saying the spending plan is “focused on our most valuable resources” — students and staff who make up the system.

White’s FY 2020 operating budget plan, unveiled at a Board of Education meeting in Towson, includes $56 million for administration, $603 million for instructional salaries and wages, and $209 million for special education.

The total request is an 8.1 percent increase from last year’s operating budget. The adopted FY 2019 budget totaled $1.5 billion.

The budget includes a move to slash the number of computers available for students in kindergarten through second grade. Instead of a one-to-one ratio for students at those grade levels, White is proposing a ratio of one device for every two students.

White’s proposal also includes switching all elementary-level devices from PC devices to Chromebook devices. The two moves together, White said, should generate a savings of $15 million over three years. The current devices cost more than $900 per unit, while a Chromebook is $250 “off the shelf,” said Mychael Dickerson, BCPS chief of staff.

“I’m encouraged by the modified technology plan,” said board chairwoman Kathleen Causey.

School board member Lily Rowe said the proposal is “responsive to the things the community wants.”

“My initial response to this budget is: This is wonderful,” she said.

The board also heard a report on the county’s proposed 2020 capital budget for school construction projects.

That proposed capital budget includes additional funding for a new Berkshire Elementary, a new Dundalk Elementary, and line items — though with no money appropriated — for planning and design on potential replacement schools at Towson High, Dulaney High and Lansdowne High.

A public hearing on the proposed operating budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Greenwood campus, 6901 N. Charles St., Towson. A board work session is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and a vote on the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5.

After being reviewed by the board, the school budget proposal advances to the County Council and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. for consideration.

cboteler@baltsun.com

twitter.com/codyboteler

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