TPS Superintendent Left With ‘No Tolerable Options’ Amid More Budget Cuts
TULSA, Oklahoma - A projected $12 million budget shortfall is forcing Tulsa Public Schools to cut things you'll care about.
For decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have underfunded public education, forcing districts to constantly trim budgets. While TPS parents might not have noticed all the cuts in the past, the superintendent says, this time you will notice.
"What we are doing to ourselves as Oklahomans…it's just stupid. Because we are only hurting our own future, all of us," Superintendent Deborah Gist said.
Visibly upset, Gist is running out of options.
“Anything else we do is just going to continue to be extraordinarily painful and completely unacceptable for what we need to be doing as a state," she said.
In just two years, the district has seen nearly $20 million in state funding cut.
Gist said, "We're no longer in a position of being able to continue to do the kinds of things we've done in the last few years."
Adding, Oklahoma has had the largest funding decrease per student compared to any other state, and her options to keep the doors open are shrinking.
"None of them are tolerable options. That's what the situation that we are, that's where we are," she said.
The district needs Tulsans to fill out a budget survey. It asks people to choose between cutting a number of things, like athletics, closing or combining schools, shortening the year, increasing class size and even the possibility of a four-day week – all with likely staff layoffs.
“This year we have on our list eliminating middle school athletics, we have eliminating all athletics," Gist said. "We do not have options that are not equally difficult, and painful, and awful, and bad for kids and bad for Tulsa."
Gist is left feeling like she has no good options and that the state's lack of adequate education funding is hurting growth and running off business and development.
"You know, as…I don't know, it's just a terrible situation," she said.
The new budget survey is only going to be active for a week. It allows you to prioritize possible cuts and do a downsized version of the budget to see what would need to be cut, to save what you want.