Tulsa Public Schools Stand To Lose Nearly $1 Million In Sequestration

Friday, March 1st 2013, 7:02 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The deadlock over a budget in Washington could impact schools here in Tulsa.

At schools with a lot of students in poverty, federal tax money pays for extra help, such as teaching assistants and tutors. It's a significant amount of money.

In the case of sequestration, the cut would be almost $1 million, just in Tulsa Public Schools.

At Celia Clinton Elementary, practically all of the students are considered to be poor. That's why the school qualifies for the maximum in federal funds, about $400 per student.

At Clinton, that's $250,000, for the entire school, this year.

Principal Tanya Davis said the school and the students will suffer if that's cut.

"We spend a lot on salaries to hire teaching assistants to help out in overcrowded classrooms, for example," Davis said.

The school has a large majority of Spanish speakers, so extra tutors and smaller classes make a real and noticeable difference, according to Davis.

3/1/2013 Related Story: Congressional Leaders, President Obama Fail To Make Deal On Sequestration

She said the cut would eliminate at least one, and maybe two teaching assistants.

"We have the money budgeted now, so we're just waiting to see what the feds are going to do and whether we'll get our money or not," Davis said.

At the main office for Tulsa Public Schools, Jill Hendricks manages the federal money. For the whole district, that's $63 million, spread out to almost every school.

"If the cut is 5.3 percent, we lose about $900,000 of that," Hendricks said.

The logjam in Washington over the budget has interrupted the planning process for Tulsa Public Schools, which usually finds out each May how much federal money is coming. If a budget deal isn't reached by then, the staffing for next school year will be cut, in case the money doesn't come.

"We can plan and say, "Okay, if we have to cut off a limb, which one do we cut?' but there really won't be a deadline until there's a decision at the federal level," Hendricks said.

The federal money goes only to what's called "Title 1" schools, with high levels of poverty.

In Tulsa, only Eliot, Carnegie, Zarrow and Eisenhower don't get the federal funds.