Tulsa Public Schools Seeks Private Funds To Save Jobs

Thursday, May 31st 2012, 6:32 pm
By: News On 6

Public educators call it a sad day in Oklahoma. Tulsa Public Schools says it's being forced to aggressively go after private funding to keep teachers in the classroom.

This comes after the state legislature approved the new budget with no new education funding. TPS is searching for $3 million to prevent 75 teacher cuts this year and leaders say asking donors for money may become the norm.

Some districts are going to unprecedented lengths to keep class sizes down and teacher staffing levels up.

"This is something that I never expected to be entrenched in or involved with as a part of public education," TPS Assistant Superintendent Millard House said.

Millard House says TPS will go after any foundation and donor who's supported the district in the past. The district needs $3 million to save 75 teachers' jobs.

"This is an immense need and this is something that we have to focus on over the course of time," House said.

The tactic is gaining popularity. Brian Banfield's position with TPS was cut out of the budget, but parents at Eliot Elementary raised enough money to pay his salary.

05/25/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Parents Raise Enough Money To Save Teacher's Job

Parents in Jenks Public Schools concerned about having the largest student-to-teacher ratio in the region recently gave the largest gift of its kind in school history. Eleven couples and some anonymous donors handed over more than $1 million to the district.

05/15/2012 Related Story: Jenks Schools Gets $1.1 Million Donation To Reduce Class Size

"It's a sad day that we're having to depend on already paying taxpayers to come back in and do more," House said.

Without the $3 million, TPS will have 75 less teachers next year. 1st through 6th grade classes would grow by one student, 7th and 8th by two and high schools by three students per class.

"That's a significant push, being where our numbers were already, but it's something we have to think about and do," House said.

Education officials asked for $50 million to avoid all teacher cuts for the entire state, but it didn't happen. TPS says the legislature has left no other options but extreme fundraising in the private sector.

TPS is launching fundraising efforts next week with groups that have long-supported the district like the Tulsa Community Foundation.

The district must move fast. It has to finalize the budget by July 1, 2012.