TPS Plan Cutbacks, Avoid "Poison Pill" Of 4-Day Week

Thursday, April 6th 2017, 7:53 pm

Tulsa Public Schools plans cutbacks but avoids what the city's business leaders call the "poison pill" of a four-day school week.

There will be a slightly shorter school calendar year with teachers and staff going without at least two days of pay. 

The chamber urged the district to avoid cutting back to four-day weeks because of the image it creates about what Tulsa is doing with education.

The school district said it really wouldn't save much money so they went with other options - furloughs, closing schools, cutting spending and even spending down the savings account used to make payroll.

"These are all absolutely horrible indicators of our commitment to and investment in education and that matters tremendously," said Dr. Deborah Gist, TPS Superintendent. 

Gist said the district fully expects a 6 percent cut that equals $12 million less to spend next year.

In a two-hour board meeting Wednesday night, parents talked about the impact on their children.

Some were critical of the plan from the district, more criticized state lawmakers for not prioritizing education.

The TPS cutbacks will have the most impact on Tulsa's west side.

4/6/2017 Related Story: Webster High School Could Double In Size Under TPS' Consolidation Plan

There's another cost of cutting education, according to businesses, who have the added interest in a school system that develops future employees.

The Tulsa Chamber said the cutbacks "impacts our workforce, and our ability to attract and retain businesses in the region."

At the school board meeting where the cuts were laid out, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he understood the district didn't have any good choices when it comes to cuts and said it would cost more in the long term.

"It has tremendous long-term repercussions on our community when we are not viewed as a place that values education and funds it accordingly," Bynum said. 

Gist said if the situation improves, the first cuts to be restored would be the furlough days since it impacts the salary of staff, which is one of the district's biggest problems already in recruiting people to work in the schools.