OK Business Leaders Join Educators In Fight For More Funding

Tuesday, May 3rd 2016, 6:19 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Business leaders are pushing against cuts to education. They're concerned about substantial job losses right away, lost taxes in the short term, and a less educated workforce down the road.

The chamber of commerce is joining educators asking for immediate action on state funding - and they do not mean next year, but this fall, when new and major cuts are due to take effect.

The job of superintendent is more about numbers than ever before as every top administrator is making cuts.

Jenks Superintendent Stacey Butterfield said, “Ten teaching position and 19 administrative and support personnel.”

"About 30 administrators and support folks,” Sand Springs assistant superintendent, Sherry Durkee said.

Now the business community points out it's not just a blow for education, it's a setback for the economy.

“Underfunding our education system lessens our ability to attract business," said Mike Neal with the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.

Tulsa County school districts report they're cutting 330 teachers and 337 support staff this fall. Those jobs support hundreds of others in the economy, so the chamber predicts a sales tax loss of $4.2 million - an overall loss to the economy of $33 million a year.

The Tulsa school board made the latest cuts Monday night - 142 teaching positions and 128 support staff. Cuts that deep, according to the social services community, carry a high cost.

5/2/2016 Related Story: TPS Approves Cuts, Eliminating 142 Teaching Positions

Mark Graham with Tulsa Area United Way said, "We either invest today or we're going to pay tomorrow. Every dollar spent now on education saves dollars we'll spend on social services later."

The Tulsa County Business and Educators Group wants action now - in the budget the legislature is writing – to somehow restore school funding before the cuts hit classrooms this fall.

The lost wages figure - $33 million a year - comes from education jobs eliminated and jobs lost elsewhere as people spend less money.