Tulsa Public Schools Worry Teachers Will Feel Brunt Of Budget Cuts
By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools is reeling after learning January's check from the state was $2.5 million short. The superintendent and union are now worried that teachers will begin to feel the brunt of the cuts.
Tulsa Public Schools is looking at a loss of $10 million by the end of the school year. Union leaders and school administrators say the state legislature needs to act fast before the problem gets even worse.
"You think you have a plan and then you tread water a little longer and then you figure what else to do," said Denzel Kesterson, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.
Denzel Kesterson is president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. He says the budget problems facing the district are the worst he has seen in his entire career.
The district has already cut $3 million from its budget and the superintendent says another $5 million or more worth of cuts could lie in the months to come.
The school board voted in December to make all 12-month employees take furlough days and Tuesday night it decided all 10-month employees should take furlough days as well.
Superintendent Ballard says a one-percent salary cut across the district could be the next step. Kesterson says if that happens, the teachers union would have to renegotiate its current contract.
"I'm not saying we're willing or not willing. We're just saying everything's on the table," said Kesterson.
Both Kesterson and the superintendent are asking state legislators to use the rainy day fund to bridge the gap.
On Wednesday morning, Republican House Speaker and Tulsa Representative Chris Benge announced the GOP's agenda for the upcoming legislative session. He said a combination of spending cuts and revenue from the rainy day and other reserve funds will be used to plug the current budget hole.
But Kesterson says the legislator needs to be more active and more vocal.
"We're just going around and around in a circle and the question is, are we going to just drown? Or is somebody going to throw us a little bit of a bone or stick to make it through this year," asked Kesterson.
A message left with State House Representative Benge was not returned.
The teachers union says it will continue to meet with the superintendent as the budget problems continue. Both expect the district to have fewer teachers in the classroom next year.