School Crossing Guards May Be Cut From City Of Tulsa Budget

Friday, May 2nd 2014, 6:20 pm

Could budget cuts mean the end of school crossing guards in Tulsa?

The city plans to cut almost all funding for crossing guards in the next budget; however, that doesn't mean children will be crossing busy streets on their own.

The mayor, the school district and parents agree the crossing guards are important -- the question is how to pay for them with the city and schools both struggling to cut spending.

Crossing guard Robert Chartier has been on the job for 15 years. At Lee Elementary, he guards children as they cross 21st Street, and he's quick to point out he can't always stop traffic.

"They run too fast for a school zone, all the time, sometimes they're clipping 50-60 miles an hour," Chartier said.

5/2/2014 Related Story: 188 Vacant Positions Eliminated, 27 Layoffs In Proposed 2015 Tulsa Budget

The City of Tulsa pays for all 66 crossing guards, but Mayor Dewey Bartlett wants to find another way to pay for them.

He cut the $300,000 cost out of his proposed budget next year, but said he's open to putting it back in if councilors can find the money.

Barlett said on Thursday: "I do not believe this is a core function for the City of Tulsa."

Chris Payne, with Tulsa Public schools, empathizes.

"We totally relate to the city being in a tight financial position," Payne said.

The school district doesn't want to pay for crossing guards, but says it can't do without them either.

"We just need to as a city, be deliberate in what we do, and we would argue the safety of students is a pretty high priority," Payne said.

Back at Lee, cars zip down Cincinnati -- past a school zone warning light that's supposed to be flashing, but it doesn't work.

It is another reason the school has already taken on much of the responsibility at crosswalks.

"We have parents help and our teachers help and the crossing guard, that's the way we make it," principal Elaine Reusser said. "And I can't imagine not having a crossing guard."

Parents like Alexandra Bergman can't imagine crossing without someone watching.

She laughed off the suggestion the school should pick up the cost.

"The school can barely pay for what they do academically in the classroom," she said. "[It's] not 'the city should pay;' it's their responsibility to keep kids safe.

The burden is on the council now to find the money for crossing guards this fall, but the mayor wants a permanent alternate funding source that is not the city general fund.