Amid Budget Crisis, OK Schools Relying On More Outside Help

Thursday, September 1st 2016, 7:47 pm
By: Emory Bryan

One of Oklahoma's great success stories in education is the people and organizations willing to help, and schools are more reliant on that outside help than ever.

The most common education partners bring in volunteers to read, but over the years, school partnerships have changed from simple, to strategic.

In Tulsa, the Partners in Education program is run by the Chamber of Commerce; the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools runs the Partners in Action program.

Partners in Education coordinator, Kuma Roberts said, “But as parent engagement has waned over the years, the community interest in helping schools has grown, and we've had to move on from cookies and cupcakes and make sure that students really have what they need in the classroom,”

The needs depend on the school and the students, but school partners provide everything from basic supplies, to class volunteers, to field trip opportunities.

Carole Huff-Hicks with Public Service Company said it first partnered with a Tulsa high school 30 years ago.

“There is a huge need in those schools, they don't have the resources at home or the support at home that other students might have,” she said.

PSO now brings students into their offices and sends out engineers to tutor math students.

Huff-Hicks said, "And they are absolutely elated to be able to assist elementary age students and showcase their talents in math and science so they can help these students."

The partnerships range from purely financial to very hands on.

Roberts said, "We've got, of course, financial supports, but what I hear more from students than anything is that we need bodies. We need more people in front of students talking about their lives, their journeys, their futures, so students have something to hope for."

This year, the Tulsa program is expanding into the Union school district for the first time.