Adding Furlough Days Would Deliver Big Hit To Tulsa Teachers' Salary

Friday, March 31st 2017, 11:00 pm
By: News On 6

School districts across Oklahoma are trying to figure out how to handle budget cuts expected next year.

Tulsa Public Schools is considering up to seven furlough days, which the district said would save $1 million dollars each day, but the idea has some teachers furious.

While having furlough days would save a lot of money, it would cost teacher's more than $1,300 a year in pay and take students out of the classroom during critical developmental times.

"It's not what anybody wants and the blame lies squarely in Oklahoma City," said Patti Ferguson-Palmer, president of the Tulsa Teacher’s Classroom Association. "A lot of people in Tulsa would be hurt and it would affect the whole city."

She ran the numbers on how seven days off would affect some teachers' pay and said, “It would be absolutely devastating.”

A new TPS teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes less than $33,000 a year - with seven furlough days, the salary drops by more than $1,300.

An experienced teacher with a master’s degree would lose more than $1,500 a year.

Ferguson-Palmer said, "I don't see how we can possibly expect to have a teaching force if their paychecks are going to be smaller."

State Senator Gary Stanislawski said lawmakers have been working to fix the budget, saying rolling back tax cuts is part of the solution.

"That is the number one area of focus for us," Stanislawski said, "We have to bring some structural rebalancing to the state."

Stanislawski said the state gave big tax breaks to energy companies, but that was when business was good.

"The state was very generous with some of the tax credits," he said. "That's okay when you have plenty of money coming in."

But now that the state doesn't, Ferguson-Palmer said it's time lawmakers vote to put kids first.

“Well, put your money where your mouth is. You know, obviously you don't support education because you've done everything you can to make it impossible to keep schools open and running," she said.

Stanislawski is proposing a tax increase at the pump to help pay for teacher raises. He also thinks districts need to restructure their funding sources, relying less on state funding and more on local reoccurring funding sources.