With Funding Increase, TPS Stops Furloughs; Other Cuts Remain

Wednesday, May 31st 2017, 10:48 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa Public Schools is rolling back its decision to implement two furlough days next year after state lawmakers passed the nearly $7 billion budget last week.

5/31/2017 Related Story: Fallin Signs $6.8B Spending Plan To Fund Oklahoma Government

The budget increases education funding by 1.6 percent compared to last year; and while that’s good news for districts, it’s only temporary.

State education funding will increase by $22 million, but none of the money will go to teacher pay raises, and district leaders at TPS don’t think it addresses a long-term sustainable plan.

Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she’s happy the state increased funding for public education but is fearful the problems will be back in less than a year.

"It happened because they heard from people," she said. "We have to expect that the instability will continue, unfortunately."

Gist said because the state is starting to prioritize education the district won't need to cut as much.

"We have communicated all along that the furlough days would be the first to come off the list," she said.

The superintendent said shortening the school year cuts learning time and takes money away from the country’s lowest paid teachers.

3/31/2017 Related Story: Adding Furlough Days Would Deliver Big Hit To Tulsa Teachers' Salary

Some hoped the state's new budget meant the west side school consolidation plan could be put on hold, but Gist said that's not the case.

"We've seen big increases in population on the east side of Tulsa, and we have to make adjustments for that," she said.

The superintendent said consolidating the schools, as well as the other cuts, will still need to happen, except for the furlough days.

5/15/2017 Related Story: TPS Votes To Cut Staff, Consolidate West Side Schools

But since lawmakers did not establish a reoccurring revenue source for education funding, Gist said the same conversations are likely next year because “there has not been an answer to the structural deficit.”

She said each new cut will only hurt Tulsa's future, and that the conversation needs to continue and needs to be about investing in our children's future.

"We can’t keep having this conversation every spring about where else are we going to find reductions in our system," she said.

State Democrats have raised constitutional concerns about the approval process, meaning there could be challenges in court.