Tulsa Public School students still have a few days of summer left, but Tulsa teachers are already back in the classroom. And things are looking up this year, a possible pay raise and smaller classes.
News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims says it seems like the budget crisis is firmly in the past.
For the last couple of years, 8th grade teacher Gayle Labadie has rationed her paper and counted her pennies. But the budget worries seem to be gone for good and this year she can barely contain her excitement. "We're very optimistic we're looking at more materials for the students. The outlook for everyone is just so optimistic."
A new contract is helping spread the positive spirit. It will add three paid professional days to the school year but it also includes teacher's annual pay raises. If it's approved, the average teacher will take home an extra $2,100. â€œIts wonderful because the last few years we've started the year not knowing if there would be a pay raise or how much and thatâ€™s been taking care of for us.â€
This year will see more new faces in Tulsa classrooms. TPS has hired close to 400 new teachers and that should help bring class sizes down. Last year, as many as 36 students filled these seats. With all of the extra teachers that should go down by almost ten. "It is dramatic my class sizes will be much smaller this year and I'll have more time for one on one instruction as needed."
Labadie says all of the good news has made the whole atmosphere at school a little lighter. And she says that's going to make a big difference for the kids. â€œIt is its going to affect the children in such a positive way because our enthusiasm and optimism is at such a high level itâ€™s going to be there in the classroom."
The new teacher contract is on Tuesday's school board agenda, which is also when thousands of Tulsa students will head back to class.