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Tulsa Public Schools Board Of Education Meets With Lawmakers

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Legislators meeting with the board of education at Zarrow International School. Legislators meeting with the board of education at Zarrow International School.
State Representative Katie Henke speaks with the Tulsa school board State Representative Katie Henke speaks with the Tulsa school board
TULSA, Oklahoma -

State lawmakers went back to class this week to get a first-hand look at one the of our state's biggest expenses, which is education.

And in Tulsa Friday, the school board met with state leaders one last time before they go into session.

The legislature is about to begin and one of their first items will be funding for what's left of the current school year.

Then it's back to what's expected to be the familiar debate over funding for next year.

State Senator Jabar Shumate took a quick tour of McLain High School Friday, spending a few minutes talking with students and administrators.

But he was actually the student here. It's part of a planned effort to educate people who make the laws about the impact of what they do.

Shumate didn't need convincing that Oklahoma's education budget needs some scrutiny.

"We're just at the back when you look at it from any angle, and I want to change that," Shumate said.

That was the same feeling expressed by several legislators before the Tulsa school board. All said they support education and a few promised to work for more money.

The most experienced hands in the legislature reminded the board it was still unlikely education would get the funding it had even a few years ago.

"My goal would be 2008 levels—that would be fair. There's certainly the money there, we're not taking an unreasonable approach, but we need more dollars in education," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard.

The chief financial officer for TPS told lawmakers the district had this year's kinds of costs while working essentially with 2007 funds.

And they were reminded that 45 of Tulsa's teachers are paid with donated dollars that run out at the end of the school year.

"It was more than let's bring in the legislators and just ask for money; it was here are our demonstrated areas of success, here's how we've tried to budget and be good stewards of the dollars that we have and here are some areas of need," said State Senator Gary Stanislawski.

Shumate's tour didn't reveal any surprises for him, but he hopes to use what he saw to push for better funding.

"What we don't often get is the true experience of teachers, administrators and students, what they have to deal with when we under fund education," Shumate said.

The money requested for what's left of this year is $37.7 million and that would pay for prep work and testing that's already planned and scheduled.

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