Southern Prince George's Officials Meet with Muslims, Offer Support for Eid Holidays

Southern PG Officials address community

 

Southern Prince George's Officials Meet with Muslims, Offer Support for Eid Holidays    

Written by Jameel Aalim-Johnson, Muslim Link Contributing Writer

SATURDAY, 09 MAY 2015 04:58

On Sunday afternoon April 19, 2015, a group of approximately 30 members of the Muslim community filled Conference Room 2 in the Oxon Hill Library to communicate with their elected officials from the State, County, and Board of Education.

The Prince George's County Muslim Council (PGCMC) teamed with the Southern Prince George's Association for Mutual Improvement (SAMI) to cosponsor a community forum with State Senator Anthony Muse, State Delegate Kris Valderrama, County Council Chair Mel Franklin, and Board of Education Member Sonya Williams.

After welcoming introductions by the leaders of both groups, the elected officials gave an overview of key issues taking place in the state legislature, the county council, and the Board of Education. Senator Muse expressed appreciation for the invitation to the Forum, emphasizing his respect and admiration for the Muslim members of their community. He highlighted the accomplishments of the just concluded Maryland General Assembly, notingthat Prince George's County will receive substantial amounts of State funding for education, healthcare and other capital projects. The State Senator spoke of key bills he was able to pass during the most recent session including SB 651- a bill that expunges criminal records for individuals previously convicted of a crime that is no longer a crime in the State of Maryland and SB 646 - a bill attempts to set reasonable standards for the caseload of the Office of the Public Defender.

 

State Delegate Valderrama discussed the relationship with the new Governor who as a Republican is a member of the opposition party compared to the state legislature which is majority Democratic. She spoke of the importance of bipartisanship for sake of Maryland. She also informed the audience about the opportunity to receive scholarships from their state representatives if they are attending Maryland colleges; public or private.

 

Ms. Sonya Williams reiterated the work of the Board of Ed in promoting student achievement County-wide, while preparing them for college or career. She shared some of the goals of the Strategic Plan for Education in the County, noting that when implemented this plan will increase the rankings of County schools to the top within the State. She urged members to read the Strategic Plan and work for its implementations as "good schools lead to good neighborhoods, which also leads to growth in investment and benefit for all," she added.

 

Council Chairman Mel Franklin stated, "these are very challenging as well promising times to be in the County." He indicated that there are huge transportation issues as well as the lackluster performance of the County Schools. He said no decision has been reached yet in the implementation of the Public School Strategic Plan as this will lead to an increase in taxes. On a positive note, he stated that the County is enjoying a historic reduction in crime, planning to build a first class regional medical center, the transformation of the Laurel and University town centers, and lobbying to have the proposed FBI headquarters moved to Greenbelt or Landover and the development of the Purple line.

 

Much of the question and answer period focused on the proposed real estate tax increase to be imposed by the county to provide more funding for the schools. Councilman Franklin took an impromptu poll of those in attendance to see who was in favor of the tax increase and who was opposed. The poll was split approximately 50/50. The Councilman made it clear that, "in order to fund the schools we either have the tax increase, don't increase funding for the schools or find some third way."

 

A board member of Masjid Al Hikmah (a subsidiary of SAMI) asked, "What does it take for the schools to recognize Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha as public holidays?" Ms. Williams stated that she wasn't certain if the Board of Education had the individual authority but noted that the first approach is to start a conversation. The holidays are mentioned in the school calendar and the school system has accepted excused absences for Muslim students. Senator Muse stated that it might take enabling legislation from the state legislation for the county to move forward. When asked if he would sponsor such legislation he stated that he would. Ms. Williams stated that she would vote in favor of closing the schools if it came up for a vote. Although the County Council would have no authority in this matter, Councilman Franklin pledged to provide public support for the Muslim holidays. New York City recently declared the Eid observances as a school holiday.

For more information on Prince George's County Muslim Council go to www.pgcmc.org and like them on Facebook. Learn more about the work of SAMI at www.sami-pgc.org.

Brothers listen to Southern PG Officials

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